Science of Sleep Part 2: What can you uncover during a sleep study?

Published: Jun. 19, 2018 at 11:12 AM CDT
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Hypertension, diabetes, risk of stroke and heart failure. All frightening conditions that can all be made much worse by poor sleeping habits.

In Part 2 of the

, we're uncovering the answers you can find in an overnight sleep study.

CHI St. Joseph Health Sleep Center Supervisor John Childers spends his days making sure others get the most out of their nights.

"In the lab we most commonly see and work to identify obstructive sleep apnea," said Childers. "But we also see narcolepsy, periodic leg movement and REM behavior disorder as well."

The Sleep Center is open seven days (and nights) a week, with specialists on staff pretty much 24/7, monitoring their patients.

"We're looking for their sleep patterns, their EEG brain waves, eye movement, air flow through their nose and mouth," explained Childers. "We're also checking on snoring volume, chest and abdominal movements, leg and arm movements and of course oxygen level and eye movements."

They monitor those stats through 26 different wires, that are attached to your legs, heart, neck, scalp and chin before you go to sleep.

"Sleep apnea and heart problems go hand in hand, so we always make sure to monitor the heart," said Polysom Technologist Nicole Campbell. "We also put a belt across the patients' chest and stomach that expand and contract when they breathe."

Usually when someone talks about living a healthy lifestyle, they focus on nutrition and exercise. But, Campbell said working in a sleep center is extremely rewarding, because changing your sleep habits is one small thing you can do that has a huge impact on all aspects of your life.

"If you're not getting a good nights sleep, your whole body suffers," said Childers. "Your heart suffers, your mental status, you can't think or concentrate. You'll also have a hard time remembering things and you're just generally going through life sleepy."

Chidlers warns that if you have obstructive sleep apnea and you don't take the steps to fix it, the fallout can be even worse.

"With sleep apnea you're not only looking at snoring as an annoyance. When you quit breathing, your oxygen level drops, and your heart, kidney and vital organs aren't getting proper oxygen," said Childers. "That's an extra stress on those organs and your body as a whole."

A typical sleep study runs about 6-8 hours and centers usually only do them at night, beginning around 7 p.m. During that time, if the patient stops breathing a significant amount, the technician will come in to put a CPAP on you. The breathing machine is supposed to make a difference in the amount of oxygen flowing to your brain.

To participate in a sleep study, you do have to see a sleep or lung specialist first. You can find more information on that inside


Tune into BVTM on KBTX at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, for Part 3 of the Science of Sleep, where we will break down the results of a sleep study and discuss treatment options those with obstructive sleep apnea can choose from.