Originally created 09/25/01

Searching for sleep

John Krueger can't remember the last time he got a good night's sleep. He didn't expect Thursday night to be any different - especially with 16 electrical wires attached to his body.

The wires were an integral part of tests at Doctors Hospital's sleep laboratory. The wires were placed in specific areas to read activities such as dreaming, snoring, leg movements, breathing patterns and waking up.

More than a third of Americans - more than 100 million - fail to get enough quality sleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Many people don't realize that sleep disorders can be diagnosed and corrected.

"I never gave any thought to the fact that it could be fixed," Mr. Krueger said. It takes a week or two for the results to be compiled and evaluated by a physician specializing in sleep medicine.

The Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics, Doctors Hospital, Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, St. Joseph Hospital and University Hospital all have sleep labs where patients spend the night.

Lab technicians monitor patients' vital signs through the night. There also are video cameras to record any unusual behavior.

Each facility's sleep lab varies, but usually consist of a private hospital room, modified to be extra dark and quiet. The cost of a night in a sleep center is around $1,200, but most insurance companies cover at least part of the expense.

Freda Moyer of Grovetown sought help for her extreme daytime sleepiness.

She spent a night in the sleep center after a battery of other tests - blood and hormone exams, from her general practitioner - failed to find the cause of her fatigue.

"It all came back normal." she said. "I thought (the sleep lab) was going to be a waste of my time, too," Mrs. Moyer said.

Mrs. Moyer drives a school bus; being sleepy during the day was a huge risk to herself and the students.

Anthony Murrow, director of the sleep lab at the VA, said extreme cases of excessive daytime sleepiness can cause car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 100,000 car accidents a year are caused by drivers' sleepiness.

To combat drowsiness, Mrs. Moyer would nap as often as possible.

"When I'd wake, I didn't feel rested. I used to come in between routes and sleep," Mrs. Moyer said. "It was gradually getting worse. I finally said something's got to give."

After a night in the sleep center, Mrs. Moyer went in for more testing during the day.

She was again wired up and allowed to take four to five naps, each lasting between 20 to 35 minutes. The naps were spaced two hours apart and electrodes measured if she fell asleep, how quickly she fell asleep and how deeply she slept.

She was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnolence syndrome, or excessive sleepiness. The exact cause is still unknown. The treatment is a medication that keeps Mrs. Moyer alert during the day.

In addition to the medication, Mrs. Moyer practices good sleep hygiene, which means going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even weekends.

"That can be tough sometimes, but it's the best thing that ever happened to me," she said.

Sleep routines

Maintaining good sleep habits is the first step to getting quality sleep at night. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Mayo Clinic offer the following tips to promote good sleep.

Sleep only when you are drowsy.

Avoid lying in bed, trying unsuccessfully to sleep. The more you try, the more awake you'll become. Distract your mind. Leave your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity somewhere else. Return to bed when you are sleepy.

Keep a regular waking time, even on weekends.

Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol and strenuous exercise for four to six hours before bedtime.

A light snack before bedtime can help promote sound sleep, but avoid large meals.

Avoid nicotine close to bedtime or during the night.

Minimize light, noise and extreme temperatures in the bedroom.

Avoid or limit naps. If you can't get by without one, limit it to less than 30 minutes.

Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous exercise on most days.

Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332 or lisalohr@augustachronicle.com.


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