What is Sleep Medicine?
Sleep medicine is a medical subspecialty that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disturbances or disorders. Physicians specializing in this field are able to accurately interpret overnight sleep studies or polysomnographies and diagnose conditions relating to sleep.
About Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders can be classified into dyssomnias, parasomnias, and disorders of medical or psychiatric origin.
This is a group of sleep conditions that involves hyper somnolence or excessive sleepiness and/or insomnia or lack of sleep. Examples include: obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, Circadian rhythm (biological clock) disorders, and leg movement disorders.
This is a group of sleep conditions characterized by abnormal interference with sleep. Examples include: bruxism (teeth grinding), sleep walking, and bedwetting.
Some sleep disorders may be caused by medical or psychiatric conditions.
Conditions such as acid reflux, arthritis, schizophrenia and alcoholism may cause disturbances in sleep.
How are Sleep Disorders Diagnosed?
Sleep disorders are identified through various methods of gathering information from the patient. This includes obtaining information directly from the patient via medical examination and the patient’s past medical history. Surveys regarding sleep can also give the physician pertinent data. Examples include the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and a sleep diary where the patient records his/her sleep-related activity for two weeks. Diagnostic testing in the form of a polysomnography, or overnight sleep study, is also used to monitor and identify abnormalities during the sleep process.
How are Sleep Disorders Treated?
Management and treatment may include:
- Sleep Hygiene – recommendations that encourage good sleeping habits. Bad habits such as staying up too late and getting up too early or using your bed as your workspace can contribute to sleep problems.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – therapy conducted by a psychologist.
Positive airway pressure ventilation therapy
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, therapy is mainly used to treat patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Patients suffering from sleep apnea experience intermittent narrowing or blockage of the airway when surrounding muscles in the neck relax during sleep. Positive airway pressure maintains an open airway for the patient so that he/she can breathe normally while sleeping.
Procedures – Preparation and What to Expect
Polysomnography – The facility where your sleep study is scheduled should contact you with information on how to prepare for the test but in general, you will be asked to:
- Take your medications as prescribed by your physician. You may also be asked to bring a complete list of your medications.
- Do not consume alcoholic beverages or caffeinated beverages during the day of your test.
- Bring clothes to sleep in and anything you normally use to help you fall asleep. You will not be allowed to sleep without clothes.
- Please bathe or shower and thoroughly wash your hair and scalp prior to arrival. Do not use any hair products including mousse, hairspray, or hair oils as it may degrade the quality of your study.
- Do not take any naps the day of the study.