Why did I choose a sleep test?

This is the brains of the home sleep testing device I will use for my sleep study

From a young age, I was always a person that went to sleep easily, stayed asleep well, and woke up early, feeling refreshed…jumping right out of bed (much to the chagrin of my husband, who is a “snooze-button-pusher”).  Even when our children were very young and didn’t sleep well, after one good night I felt great again.

Amongst all of the continuing education I take as a dentist, the growing amounts of concern regarding sleep disorders led me several years ago to start directing some learning time in that direction.  As part of my introductory sleep studies course (we learned NOTHING about this in dental school 19 years ago), the participants took a “home sleep testing” device back to their hotel rooms to use that night during sleep.  The next day in the course, all of the dentists in the course reviewed and discussed the findings of every sleep study.  Mine was pointed to as everyone’s goal…fall asleep easily, stay asleep well, very stable breathing during sleep.

However, in the past few years, this has started to change, as do many things with age. Not that I am old, mind you…I’ve been practicing being 39 for a few years! Despite the fact that as a business owner, wife, and mother of three school-aged children I often “burn the midnight oil”, I don’t even feel refreshed after “sleeping in” on the weekends.  This has been concerning me more and more as I learn more about the effects of poor sleep on my overall health! At this time in my life, I am all about trying to avoid the health issues my parents both faced and ultimately died too young as a result (at 66 and 71 years old).

My plan now is to re-do my home sleep study, using a new sleep study recorder I just purchased for use with my patients from a local company (Braebon Medical Corporation) called the Medibyte Jr. With this device, I am hoping to see if my breathing patterns during sleep have changed in the last 5 or so years, which could be (part of the reason) why I’m not feeling rested. I will be enlisting the aid of the certified sleep techinicians at Braebon to check the data I record, which includes my air flow, oxygenation, chest movement, body positioning, pulse.  From these measurements, I’ll be able to tell if what I suspect is true…that my night time air flow is becoming more limited, which does not allow me to cycle properly in and out of sleep cycles.  Without proper oxygen exchage, my body can’t repair from all I have done to it all day, and my brain can’t cement all the new knowledge I take in all day long.

My father had a heart attack at 50 years old (an age that is creeping up faster to me than it should), and that, combined with his diabetes, is what did him in at age 66.  True enough, my father was also at least 50-75 pounds overweight most of the years I remember him, which put added strain on his heart and contributed to his unstable blood sugar…but you might not know that weight gain is common with poor sleep, and weight loss made more difficult.  Also, the strain on the heart from improper oxygenation during the reparative hours of sleep took their toll.  If I knew when I was a teenager that he should have had a sleep study, and possibly a dental sleep appliance or even a sleep breathing machine called a CPAP, perhaps he’d still be around now at the awesome age of nearly 80.

Sleep disorders are closely linked with diabetes, cancer, heart disease, poor lung function, poor healing from injuries and surgery, increased chance of complications from surgery, memory loss, erectile dysfunction, poorly-managed high blood pressure, gastric reflux disease (GERD)… in children, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and behavioural problems, plus poor school performance are all linked with sleep disorders…and yet most medical doctors/psychiatrists/school administrators are more likely to request Physchological/Educational Evaluations and a host of drugs to our children without considering checking on how the child sleeps!

So…why does a dentist care so much about sleep?  I love my patients, and I love my family…and want them all to live long and healthy lives.  From what I see in the reasearch, sleep has historically been one of the most under-researched causative factors in so many serious/deadly disease processes, and I want to be a part of that solution for my patients, my family and friends, and myself! It starts with either a home sleep study or a sleep lab based test called a PSG…and where it continues depends on the results of one of these tests.  Please…don’t avoid the testing because you are scared of the results!  Don’t avoid the testing because there is a cost!  If finding the solution extends your life or the lives of your loved ones…the testing itself becomes priceless.

I’ll report here on the results of my study, and also what I find as a solution.  Please comment on this blog with your own sleep experiences, or how you feel about the treatments you’ve had…or ask us how to arrange a sleep test for you.