Sanford Vermillion offers sleep disorders testing

Sanford Vermillion offers sleep disorders testing
Do you wake up in the morning as tired as you were when you went to bed? Are you teased about your loud and disruptive snoring? Do you struggle to stay awake throughout the day? If this sounds familiar, you may have sleep apnea syndrome.

Fortunately, help may be just minutes and a few hours of monitored sleep away at Sanford Vermillion Medical Center. The addition of these services is in response to the increasing national awareness of the toll sleep disorders and sleep deprivation exact on Americans. If you awaken feeling exhausted, then you may need to consult your physician.

Many people believe sleepiness is a way of life; however, most sleep disorders are easily diagnosed and treated. Ask your doctor to order a sleep study that could help diagnose a possible sleep disorder and begin treatment.


There are currently 88 classifications of sleep disorders defined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The most common sleep disorder evaluated in a sleep center, such as the one at Sanford Vermillion Medical Center, is sleep apnea. Approximately 80 million Americans suffer from some sort of sleep disorder, and approximately 30 percent of these suffer from sleep apnea.

Apnea is a Greek word meaning "absence of breath." It literally means a person stops breathing during sleep. A person falls asleep and the airway collapses. The only way to reopen the airway is to gasp for air. This gasping, or loud snoring and snorting, interrupts the sleep cycle. Each time the sleep cycle is disrupted, a person must return to the first stage of sleep and start the cycle over.

This can repeat itself hundreds of times in one night. The repetitive fluctuations prevent a person from achieving the deeper stages of sleep; thus, a person never gets the sleep needed to awaken rested and refreshed. Each apnea can cause a decrease in heart rate, a change in blood pressure, loss of blood oxygen level, a brief awakening, and twitching and jerking of the arms or legs.

Apnea greatly increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Snoring, witnessed apnea events, and excessive daytime sleepiness are the main reasons a person may be referred for a sleep study.

Sanford Vermillion Medical Center, in conjunction with somniTech, Inc., provides sleep disorders testing services. A sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, is the only way a person can be diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea. This requires an overnight stay in a sleep disorders lab such as the one at Sanford Vermillion Medical Center. The procedure is fairly simple and completely painless.

The patient arrives approximately one hour before his or her normal bedtime. A highly trained technologist will attach a series of electrodes that will monitor brain activity (EEG) to record the various stages of sleep and sleep interruption; eye movement to determine REM sleep; chin electrodes to monitor muscle relaxation/tension; chest electrodes (EKG) to evaluate heart rate; and arm and leg leads for the evaluation of limb movements.

A small microphone on the throat will record snoring; belts around the chest and abdomen will monitor respiratory effort; and last, a red light over the index finder will calculate the amount of oxygen carried in the blood. All this is accomplished pain-free, with the use of patches or small electrodes.

The patient is then asked to complete a series of tests to determine if all equipment is working correctly. Once the calibrations are complete, the patient can get comfortable in any sleeping position. Apnea may be worse in the supine position (on the back); therefore, the technician may ask the patient to sleep on his/her back at some point during the test. Six hours of recording time are required to complete most insurance requirements for coverage of the test.

Treating sleep apnea

Once sleep apnea is diagnosed, it is easily treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). CPAP us a simple device that acts like and air splint to keep open the collapsed airway. The patient is fitted for an interface prior to going to sleep. If apnea is seen and is severe enough to warrant intervention, then the mask is fit over the patient's nose.

The pressure is initiated at a very low setting to give the patient ample time in which to acclimate. Once the patient is asleep, the CPAP is gradually increased until all apnea and snoring are eliminated. This titration process allows the interpreting sleep physician to select a pressure setting that will become the prescribed setting for that patient.

Just as every case of apnea differs in severity, CPAP settings must be determined on a case-by-case basis. This is why a formal sleep study must be performed in selecting a CPAP pressure.

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, please seek medical advise. Sleep apnea is easy to treat, and a better quality of life is a simple study away. If you are not convinced that you have apnea, but do not feel rested on a regular basis, please speak to your physician. Addressing symptoms and possible sleeping disorders can improve your daytime functioning.

For more information about sleep and sleeping disorders, call Sanford Vermillion Medical Center at (605) 624-2611.

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