Tahlequah Daily Press

January 23, 2013

Insomniacs try techniques to catch zzz’s

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — One of the first steps a parent takes in raising a child is conditioning him to “sleep through the night.”

Newborns awaken about every two hours, seeking food or a diaper change, and in some cases, they remain awake longer than their parents would like.

While this is considered normal behavior in babies, adults who wake in the middle of the night, or have trouble falling asleep, are often diagnosed with insomnia, which can be debilitating over time.

According to Registered Respiratory Therapist Sandy Henry, director of cardiopulmonary services at Tahlequah City Hospital, insomnia can create a number of health issues.

“The medical consequences of living with an untreated sleep disorder can be numerous,” said Henry. “Some related diagnosis include high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, obesity, psychiatric problems and overall poor quality of life.”

TCH has partnered with experts in the field from the Sleep Disorders Center at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa. Through this effort, patients can receive their sleep studies locally, and are scheduled through the centralized scheduling department at TCH.

“Typically, a patient’s general physician will recommend a sleep study,” said Henry. “The study is conducted by polysomnographers – technicians trained specifically in sleep study procedures – and then read by a board-certified physician who specializes in the field of sleep study.”

According to Henry, the interpreting physician contacts the patient with the results, which are forwarded to the referring physician, along with treatment recommendations.

Sleep studies are generally recommended for those suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. Signs include excessive snoring, and periods of no breathing, called sleep apnea.

“They typically don’t know they wake up several times per hour,” said Henry. “Some of the symptoms include decreased alertness during the day, problems remembering things, stress, sleepiness during the day, anxiety and depression.”

Local resident Olga Hoenes said she suffers insomnia often.

“I’m up and down all night,” said Hoenes. “I did a sleep study and failed. I couldn’t go to sleep because I knew I was being watched.”

Hoenes’ doctor said her insomnia is likely related to a heart condition she suffers, and that she probably needs a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, mask.

“But they need a good sleep study [completed before prescribing CPAP],” said Hoenes. “They signed me up for another [sleep study], but I’ll fail that one, too. I flunked the first one [even after having taken a sleeping pill].”

Several other local residents indicated they suffer from occasional insomnia, but rely on other methods to overcome it.

“Stressful situations that come up late in the evening cause me to have problems sleeping,” said Isabel Baker. “If I have at least two hours before bedtime to read or watch TV, I usually can sleep well. One thing that helps me is a half-cup of 2 percent milk and a teaspoon of peanut butter. [It’s] very calming.”

Patti Gulager has been a nurse for over 30 years, and often turns to tea to help her sleep.

“I have had insomnia for years,” said Gulager. “I think it’s hormones, or the lack [thereof]. I’ve never had a sleep study, but I know they are good to diagnose sleep apnea. I usually stay up as long as I can, and a warm glass of tea can be helpful. ‘Sleepy Time’ [herbal tea] is the best.”

Kate Starr said her mother offered the best advice.

“I was taught by my mom to just get up and do something when [insomnia] hits,” said Starr. “Stay up and do not nap the next day. You will sleep by the next night, ending the problem. People who say they have insomnia often take naps; that’s not insomnia, that’s a sleep scheduling problem.”

Robby Robinson, a local veteran, has suffered from mild insomnia for over 50 years, waking in the middle of the night for at least an hour.

“I am not alone,” said Robinson. “I believe I did a college study as a participant with no conclusion or cessation. This is when I was told how common it is.”

According to recent research, the notion that a sequential hours of sleep – generally eight hours – is best for optimum thinking performance, is being disproved.

In a New York Times article, David Randall pointed out that if predetermined sleep expectations are removed, people often fall into a natural pattern of split sleep schedules.


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