Can’t sleep? Tired of counting sheep? You are not alone. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50-70 million American adults
have a sleep or wakefulness disorder, and insufficient sleep has been
declared a public health problem.
“Each person’s ‘right’ number of sleep hours varies,
but it’s important that people realize that just as diet and exercise
are important to their good health, getting the right amount of sleep
is key to maintaining optimum health and reducing stress levels,”
says C. David Sudduth, M.D., board-certified pulmonologist, Southeast
Georgia Physician Associates-Pulmonary Medicine, a strategic affiliate
of Southeast Georgia Health System and medical director of the Health
System’s Sleep Management Centers on the Brunswick and Camden campuses.
Since 1995, the Southeast Georgia Health System’s Sleep Management
Center in Brunswick has been helping residents of coastal Georgia get
a better night’s sleep. The Sleep Management Center recently opened
in its new location at 3226 Hampton Avenue, Suite H, adjacent to the Health
System’s Brunswick Campus. The new location features updated technology
and offers increased patient comfort.
“Every piece of equipment has been updated,” says Polysomnographic
Technologist Brad Miller, “and the private, hotel-like rooms have
all new beds and feature a coastal décor for greater patient comfort.”
While the actual sleep study itself won’t change, Miller says technology
has improved over the years allowing for more sensitivity and accuracy
in recording brain activity, eye movements, breathing rates and air flow,
heart rate and rhythm, and blood oxygen levels. “Even the CPAP (continuous
positive airway pressure) masks have been improved, as they are now lighter
and can automatically adjust air pressure as needed,” notes Miller.
Identifying Sleep Disorders
CPAP devices are typically prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed
with sleep apnea— an airway obstruction that causes breathing to
stop momentarily during sleep. Worn at night, a CPAP works to keep a positive
flow of air so a patient’s airway remains open while sleeping.
Miller says sleep apnea is just one of the sleep problems diagnosed at
the Sleep Management Center. Others include: insomnia or difficulty sleeping;
narcolepsy, an uncontrollable compulsion to sleep; periodic limb movement
disorder, interrupted sleep from frequent arm or leg movement; and excessive
A sleep study can determine if a patient has a sleep disorder, identify
the cause and help develop a treatment plan to increase the amount and
quality of sleep for the patient. Miller says a referral for a sleep study
is usually made by a physician following a patient’s complaint of
lack of energy and being tired. It can also be a result of a bed partner
complaint of snoring or witnessing an apnea event.
Sleep studies are typically conducted overnight, Monday through Thursday
at the Sleep Management Center. Patients check in at 8 p.m., are prepped
for their diagnostic study, and lights are out by 11 p.m. Results are
then read by a physician credentialed in sleep medicine and a treatment
plan is developed.
Sleep Promotes Better Health
Sleep is important for long-term health and wellness. “Without sleep,”
Sudduth explains, “the body isn’t able to recover sufficiently
to maintain one’s mental and physical health. This can lead to other
chronic conditions including high blood pressure and heart disease, not
to mention a decrease in quality of life and safety.”
Sudduth says stress-related insomnia is the most undiagnosed sleep disorder
nationwide, and obesity is the main risk factor contributing to the growing
incidence of sleep apnea. Difficulty sleeping can also be caused by exercising
or drinking caffeine too close to bedtime, a result of some medications
and, according to the National Sleep Foundation, overexposure to light
from electronic devices being left on overnight.
“Quality is just as important as quantity,” adds Dr. Sudduth.
“Waking up frequently and having a hard time getting back to sleep
may cause a ‘sleep debt’ that can be harmful over time or
result in reduced attention and retention skills.”
If you think you or a loved one has a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor
about the symptoms. Consider keeping a sleep diary to collect the nature
and frequency of your sleep problems in advance. If you need more information,
please contact the Health System’s Sleep Management Center in Brunswick
at 912-466-5320, or on the Camden Campus at 912-576-6474.