Not Getting Enough ZZZ's? We Can Help

July 18, 2014

If you're not getting enough sleep at night, you could be in for other serious health issues.

The Sleep Center at Mercy Hospital Independence offers sleep study services to patients referred by their primary physicians to help diagnose sleep disorders and related conditions.

The sleep center consists of two hotel-like patient rooms that have been remodeled on the hospital’s inpatient floor and are equipped with queen-sized beds and the technology necessary to monitor patients’ sleep during all-night studies.

Sleep studies involve the placement of electrodes on the patient’s scalp, sides of the head, under the chin, on the chest and leg. These electrodes measure brain waves, heart rate and eye movements, and a sensor also is placed near the nose and mouth to measure airflow. Belts around the rib cage and abdomen measure breathing movements, and blood oxygen levels are monitored with a finger clip. The sensors attached to the body relay information to the sleep technician working inside a nearby control room, and patients also are videotaped while sleeping for a visual evaluation of sleep patterns.

“Sounds really relaxing right?” said Todd Kahler, Mercy’s director of Cardio-pulmonary Services. “While it may not be their most comfortable night ever, all the technology is necessary to give us a good interpretation of our patients’ quality of sleep and help diagnose conditions that could be interfering with good health and quality of life.”

Kahler explained that sleep studies - technically termed “polysomnograms”- are used to diagnose and/or help rule out many types of sleep disorders which can lead to more serious and chronic health conditions. These include periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), REM behavior disorder, parasomnias and sleep apnea.

Signs of unhealthy sleep may include daytime sleepiness, depression, unpleasant moods, fatigue and falling asleep at work or during other routine activities when you really want to stay awake, like reading the newspaper or watching television, Kahler noted.

Untreated sleep disorders have been linked to conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Patients are referred to the Mercy Sleep Center through their primary care physicians. Sleep studies at Mercy are performed by Earl Shufeldt, certified respiratory therapist and registered polysomnograph technician. Shufeldt earned a respiratory care degree at Labette Community College in Parsons, and a certificate from the Atlanta School of Sleep Technology in Atlanta, Ga.

More information on the advantages of sleep study may be obtained through primary care physicians or by contacting the Mercy Hospital Cardio-pulmonary Services department at 620-332-3223.