What is Sleep Medicine?
Sleep medicine is a branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis, therapy and treatment of sleep disturbances and disorders. Sleep disorders include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, parasomnias and pediatric sleep problems. A sleep disorder can be a very serious issue with wide-ranging implications and consequences if not properly treated. In addition to increased accidents, mood disorders and lowered productivity, lack of sleep can contribute to heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Signs and Symptoms
General symptoms of a sleep disorder include:
- Breaks and pauses in breathing while sleeping
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Urge to move your legs or rest
- Uncomfortable feeling in legs at night
- Excessive sleepiness during the day
What is a Sleep Study?
A sleep study, or polysomnography, can help doctors diagnose potential sleep disorders. It is a non-evasive, overnight exam that allows doctors to monitor and evaluate you while you sleep. A technologist will place sensors or electrodes on your head and body. Your brain and body activity will be tracked through an EEG (electroencephalograph) monitor. As you sleep, your sleep stages and REM (rapid eye movement) cycles will be measured. Additionally, oxygen levels through a pulse oximeter, heart rate, breathing, snoring and body and eye movements will be monitored. All monitoring is non-invasive (meaning no needles involved).
What Does a Sleep Study Do?
The sleep study will provide data for your doctor to review and analyze. It will include information about sleep and wake times, sleep stages, abnormal breathing and movements and the amount of oxygen in your blood. Results from the study can be used to diagnose conditions such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome. The study results will be used in conjunction with your medical history, any other lab work or tests and exams. The goal is to help the patient understand why they are experiencing sleep disorders and how to best treat it so they can achieve restful sleep. Treatment can include education, medication, coping mechanisms and a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine.
When to Seek Sleep Medicine
Your primary care provider may refer you to a sleep clinic if you are experiencing insomnia and other sleep disorder symptoms. Your first appointment will typically include a comprehensive review of your medical history and the doctor will arrange to have your health records available. A detailed family medical history is also helpful. Additionally, it is important to take the time beforehand to document any symptoms you are experiencing and come with a detailed list of questions you might have.
The most common types of sleep disorders are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Restless legs syndrome
Benefits of UnityPoint Clinic Sleep Medicine
UnityPoint Clinic providers are committed to helping you achieve restful sleep through our sleep medicine services. We will work with you and other specialists as needed to evaluate, diagnose, treat and help maintain and control your conditions to help you reach your best health.