How well are you sleeping?

Sleep Laboratory grows and expands at New Oakville Hospital.

Sleeping Child
How well are you sleeping?

The difference between a good day and bad day could literally be as simple as the quality of your sleep.

“Sleep deprivation has been attributed to some of the worst disasters in recent history including the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the 1986 nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl. It can impair you cognitively, slow down your reaction time and significantly increase your chances for a motor vehicle or work-related accident, not to mention a host of serious psychiatric and medical conditions, from depression and cardiovascular disease to diabetes,” says Dr. Laurence Chau, a Respirologist at Halton Healthcare Services (HHS) who specializes in Sleep Disorders at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital’s (OTMH) Sleep Laboratory.

“Various sleep disorders, from snoring and insomnia, to restless leg syndrome can cause sleep deprivation which can profoundly impact your health, productivity, safety and quality of life,” continues Dr. Chau. “Sleep disorders can be tricky to diagnose because they occur when you are asleep and therefore you may be completely unaware that you have a problem. In the sleep laboratory at OTMH we have the unique opportunity to monitor patient throughout the entire night. This allows us to investigate and diagnose a multitude of sleep disorders and help our patients manage their specific disorder so they can achieve restorative sleep.”

“The enhanced comfort and privacy of our new Sleep Lab, coupled with the latest monitoring technology, will ensure that our patients will get the highest quality testing experience possible,” notes Patricia McLaren, Manager, CardioRespiratory & Neurodiagnostic Services, Neurology Clinic & Sleep Lab.

Dr. Chau notes that snoring and feeling tired after a good night’s sleep can be warning signs for one of the most common sleep disorders, known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If OSA is unrecognized or improperly managed, it can lead to serious health problems including an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, hypertension and heart failure.

“With Obstructive Sleep Apnea, your breathing stops and starts intermittently throughout the night, as if someone was trying to choke you. This deprives your brain and heart of oxygen and sets a whole cycle of physiological responses in motion that increase the stress levels on your entire body,” explains Dr. Chau. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much, narrowing or collapsing your airway. After 10 to 90 seconds of impaired breathing your brain senses the lower blood oxygen levels, rouses you from sleep and prompts you to breathe.”

“Sleep Apnea is a highly treatable disorder. It can be easily managed by having patients wear a specialized breathing apparatus while they sleep to help regulate breathing, eliminate snoring, shallow breathing and constant awakenings so they can get a more restful sleep. Oral appliances such as special mouth guards that advance the jaw, can be effective especially for mild and moderate cases. We also use special breathing apparatus to open up the airways, the most common of these is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask,” notes Dr. Chau. “Surgery may be an option for a small portion of patients.”

Diagram explaining sleep apnea

Diagram explaining sleep apnea. Photo credit: Tobyotter / Foter / CC BY

Patients coming to the Sleep Lab for an overnight sleep test are connected to sophisticated monitoring equipment by various electrodes and sensors, and are settled in for the night in one of the sleep laboratory’s bedrooms. A trained and experienced Registered Polysomnographic Sleep Technologist observes patients during the entire night on a computer monitor in the control centre while the diagnostic equipment records a wide range of data about breathing patterns, airflow, oxygen levels, heart rate and brain waves. This data is then scored, analyzed and interpreted to generate a comprehensive sleep study report.

“We monitor patients very closely and assess their movement, physiology, as well as their sleep habits, patterns and cycles,” explain Andrea Norris, HHS Registered Polysomnographic Sleep Technologist. “We determine how quickly the patient was able to fall asleep and how long they spend in each stage of sleep. We also note sleep interruptions such as breathing cessation episodes, unusual behavior or abnormal leg and body movements. In sleep apnea cases, we do something called a “CPAP titration” to determine the type and level of airway support that the patient needs so we can properly equip and fit them with their own breathing mask, calibrated to their specific needs for use at home.”

Patients are referred to the sleep lab by their family physician or specialist for the purposes of confirming or ruling out a disorder.

For Sleep Laboratory appointment bookings or for more information, call 905-338-4686


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