|Methodist center diagnoses sleep disorders|
Harris, a technician at Methodist Mansfield (Texas) Medical Center’s
sleep diagnostic clinic, attaches monitoring equipment to Kurt Howse.
UMNS photos by John Gordon.
A UMNS Feature
By John Gordon*
Jan. 26, 2009 | MANSFIELD, Texas (UMNS)
For Kurt Howse, nodding off during the day was more than a nuisance.
“After lunch or later in the day, I would be getting sleepy,
or if I wasn’t really engaged in something, I started to get a little
bit drowsy again driving,” he says. “Sometimes I drive a lot for work,
so I was very concerned with that.”
Howse, 39, sought treatment in the sleep diagnostic center at
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center near Dallas. Methodist Mansfield opened the clinic last year, against a backdrop of new studies linking sleep disorders with obesity and other health problems.
Howse, the manager of a medical-diagnostics company, is among an
estimated 70 million Americans with sleep disorders. He was first
treated for a sleep disorder a year and a half earlier and came to
Methodist Mansfield when he began noticing the symptoms again.
Howse's sleep patterns are monitored as he slumbers in one of the center’s comfortable rooms.
“My initial study before I was treated, I couldn’t stay awake
even at my doctors’ appointments,” Howse says. “I really shouldn’t have
been driving sometimes. Any time that there was not something engaging
me, I was falling asleep.”
Sleep apnea is the most common problem seen by the clinic’s medical director, Dr. Robert McMichael.
“Sleep apnea is a disorder in which you quit breathing
repeatedly during the night,” McMichael says. “Your sleep is not
restful, and you feel drowsy in the daytime. Another thing that it does
is it causes your blood pressure to go up every time you have an apnea,
and it increases the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.”
Sleep lab like home
Methodist Mansfield’s sleep diagnostic center includes two
rooms that, by design, bear little resemblance to standard hospital
“They look like bedrooms that you would see at someone’s
home,” says Laura Irvine, the hospital’s president. “It’s designed that
way so that the patient can have a good night’s sleep, just like they
would sleep at home.”
Patients spend the night attached to dozens of sensors used to
monitor their snoring, breathing, heart rate and the brain-wave
patterns that show when they are dreaming.
“The sleep lab is important because there’s a lot of people,
not just nationwide but locally, that are affected by sleep disorders,”
While patients slumber at the clinic, registered sleep
technician Kamita Harris is working — watching computer monitors and
recording sleep patterns.
“I do believe that we live in a world where patients or people
are very sleep-deprived,” Harris says. “It can make a big difference in
how you function (and in) day-to-day life.”
Age and weight gain can contribute to sleep problems.
“As we get older, especially about age 50, the muscles in the upper
airway lose some of their tone, and they may not keep the airway open
at night,” McMichael says.
Harris monitors a patient’s snoring, breathing, heart rate and brain-wave patterns.
“The other risk factor that’s prevalent is being overweight.
Our society has been getting heavier over the last 20 or 30 years. And
the people who get the larger size in their neck because of body fat
will have some compromise of the airway and be at somewhat increased
risk as well.”
McMichael says adults need six to nine hours of sleep each night.
“If you get less than six hours of sleep, it means you’re
getting too little sleep most of the time, either because you’re too
busy and don’t have enough time to get enough sleep, or perhaps because
you have an illness that makes it harder to sleep,” he says.
Howse noticed symptoms of a sleep disorder returning after he gained about 45 pounds.
“I see me and my friends getting older and a little bit
heavier and thicker in the neck,” he says. “I think there’s a lot of
people who may not notice that they do have problems.”
And Howse can feel the difference when he gets a good night’s sleep.
“It’s a world of good,” he says.
More information on sleep disorders from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is available at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Sleep/.
*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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