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Lab seeks sleep solutions

April 04, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

If you wake up feeling less rested than when you went to bed, a sleep disorder might be the problem.

If so, the Sleep Disorders Lab at Chambersburg Hospital might have the solution.

The newly renovated center sees nearly 100 patients a month - mostly men - who suffer from everything from poor "sleep hygiene" to the potentially fatal sleep apnea, said Patricia Dempsey, manager of neurophysiology services.

"It's not unusual to have a spouse dragged in by their bed partner," she said.

The lab opened six years ago with one bed and has grown to a six-bed facility on the ground floor of the hospital. It sees most of its action at night.

"Patients that get referred here describe unsatisfying sleep or falling asleep at inappropriate times," said sleep lab Medical Director Dr. Peter Jablin.

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The lab's renovated rooms look more like those in a four-star hotel than a hospital.

Soft lighting from bedside lamps illuminates the double beds, rocking chairs and plush dark blue carpeting.

"We tried to make a non-clinical environment that looks like a hotel," Jablin said.

Renovations to the lab began in November and were finished in February. The $280,000 project gutted the entire area and doubled the size of the sleep lab, said John Massimilla, vice president of administration at Chambersburg Hospital.

The public can check out the new lab and ask questions about its operations during an open house today from 2 to 6 p.m.

Patients at the lab have an initial exam, provide a sleep history and then come in for one or two night appointments.

They arrive at their normal bed time and technicians attach electrodes to measure various physical conditions throughout the night.

The monitoring equipment in the sleep lab's bedrooms transmits readings to a central station where technicians monitor patients throughout the night.

The electrodes measure heart rate, respiration, brain wave activities, eye movements and other functions, Jablin said.

From those readings, the doctor can determine if the patient suffers from sleep apnea or another problem.

Sleep apnea is caused by the collapse of soft tissue of the throat, closing the airway as the patient relaxes and sleeps, Jablin said. If the tissue is only covering part of the throat, that generally causes snoring.

"People with sleep apnea stop breathing 40, 60 or 80 times an hour. It disrupts your sleep so when you wake up in the morning you feel awful," Jablin said.

But most people have no idea they stopped breathing in their sleep and only seek treatment if they have feelings of exhaustion, lack of concentration and irritability throughout the day, Jablin said.

The same symptoms can be caused by poor sleep hygiene. That includes taking medication, watching television and not going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.

Although these things can be easily remedied, most people are not willing to compromise their lifestyles, he said.

While poor sleep hygiene is becoming almost universal, Jablin said the frequency of sleep apnea goes up with age and weight, and 3 percent to 5 percent of adults over 50 suffer from it.

There is no cure, but there are treatments that help.

The preferred treatment is a mask that delivers compressed air at a certain pressure that keeps the airway open, Jablin said.

The alternative is surgery, but that has only a 50 percent success rate, he said.

Dempsey and Jablin recommend that people who regularly are tired during the day see their physicians to rule out stress, medication or anxiety as the cause of their sleeplessness before seeking a referral to the sleep lab.

Washington County is home to two similar facilities - the Sleep Disorder Center of Western Maryland, 138 E. Antietam St., Hagerstown; and the Sleep-Breathing Disorders Center of Hagerstown, 12821 Oak Hill Ave., Hagerstown.

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