As a child, going to bed was the last thing you wanted to do. Now it may feel like a luxury.
Getting a good night’s sleep means more than feeling refreshed the next day. Serious consequences and health risks increase when sleep impaired. Sleep disorders have a wide range- insomnia, sleep driving, sleep sex, and narcolepsy.
One common sleep disorder is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when a person’s airway briefly closes when it is relaxed. Interrupted breathing during sleep mean the brain and the body are not getting enough oxygen. Some sufferers of sleep apnea stop breathing hundreds of times during while sleeping. Waking up with a dry throat, making loud snoring or choking noises while sleeping, extreme daytime sleepiness and morning headaches are all symptoms of sleep apnea.
An estimated seven million Canadians have sleep apnea.
Sleep clinics are where patients can seek treatment for sleeping disorders. Patients stay overnight while being monitored by cameras and Electroencephalography (EEG) equipment. EEG equipment is used to monitor electrical brain activity. Recording brain wave signals during sleep helps to diagnose sleeping disorders if brain activity is abnormal. Cameras monitor a patient’s movement looking for disruptive behaviours or signs of other sleeping disorders.
Melanie Paterak is the lab manager at the London Sleep Clinic. She says when patients kick their legs during sleep, it could be linked to sleep apnea. Sometimes kicking during sleep is a way of the body to wake itself up when a patient isn’t getting enough oxygen.
With sleep apnea there is a solution for patients, the CPAP machine. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine forces a stream of air through a patient’s airway to ensure they stay open.
There are different styles of CPAP masks according to a patient’s preferences.
Nasal pillow: two pads that fit under each nostril
Nasal mask: the device covers the entire nose
Full face mask: both the nose and the mouth are covered
Dr. Michael Mack is sleep medicine specialist and psychiatrist at London Health Sciences Centre. Dr. Mack says for the demand of sleep studies greatly outweighs the supply.
“For the population that we serve, we definitely don’t have enough beds to accommodate. As an example, the wait time in the GTA is approximately 4 weeks from referral to having a sleep study. Here it’s upwards towards a year. That’s a product of having only having one lab in hospital, one lab in the community.”
The hospital and the London Sleep Centre are separate from each other, so wait times vary.
Wait times for the London health Science Centre can be upwards of year.
“On average, currently we’re getting about 350 referrals of new patients a month. If you do the math right, there’s nine beds. The lab operates 6 days a week, so that’s 54 patients a week. About 4 weeks in a month, so that’s about 220 patients a month.”
The London Sleep Centre is averaging about 4 weeks from time of referral to results of a patient’s study.
Both Dr. Mack and Paterak insisted on proper sleep hygiene.
- Avoid excessive napping
- Curb alcohol use
- Avoid stimulants, like nicotine and caffeine before bed
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Dr. Mack says that waking up everyday around the same time will increase the quality of sleep and help with the body’s natural clock. He says that only sleep when tired, this means it may be later or earlier some days.