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Column: Consider a Sleep Study To Improve Your Health

— If you’re like me, a poor night of sleep can wreak havoc on your day. The occasional sleepless night is no big deal. But for the 40 million Americans who suffer sleep disorders, the havoc can be far greater: lack of sleep can result in health problems like impaired concentration, memory loss, headaches, depression, and emotional and social problems. Poor sleep can also lead to drowsy driving, making our roads unsafe for everyone.

Since 1990, Inova Neurodiagnostic and Sleep Center at Inova Alexandria Hospital has been helping people overcome their sleep problems to improve their health. In fact, ours was the first center of its kind in Northern Virginia. Our board-certified sleep physician and expert sleep technologists study patients’ sleep patterns to learn what is preventing quality sleep and work with them on solutions for improving their sleep health.

A sleep study helped Robert Winters find a solution. For years, most every sunrise “greeted” him with red, tired eyes or a morning headache. A Computed Tomography Imaging Clinical Coordinator at Inova Alexandria Hospital, Winters chalked up his daytime exhaustion to working long hours on the job and to the stress of driving in Northern Virginia traffic. But when a diagnosis of high blood pressure led to a battery of tests, including an overnight sleep study, Winters learned the cause of his sleepiness. His doctor diagnosed sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder caused by snoring or pauses in breathing during sleep, and prescribed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine. It’s made all the difference for him.

“[The CPAP] changed my life,” he said. “I don’t have any more morning headaches, and I am not tired during the day. I can truly tell the difference.”

Roberts recently underwent a follow-up study at the center. Doctors recommended certain lifestyle changes to further improve his sleep and a surgical consult to possibly remove his adenoids, which may be affecting his snoring.

The Inova Neurodiagnostic and Sleep Center is equipped to diagnose more than 80 common disorders — like sleep apnea. Diagnosis depends on the outcome of an overnight sleep study. Patients undergoing a study spend the night at the center, which was recently renovated with new furnishings, mattresses, bedding and paint to create a more home-like atmosphere. During the study, technologists attach small sensors to your head, upper body and legs. These keep track of your breathing, heart rate, and oxygen while technologists monitor your status as you sleep.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Sleep? How can anyone possibly sleep while hooked up to machines and observed via monitor? Our experienced staff will work with you to maximize your comfort and to ease test anxiety. And I am told that everyone falls asleep at some point during the study.

Don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep on your health. If you suspect a problem, ask your doctor for a referral to the Inova Neurodiagnostic and Sleep Center — Alexandria. Read sleep tips and learn more at inova.org/sleep.