Sleep Troubles? Experts Ready to Help

Trenton Oestreich, RPSGT, Stacy Bush and Diana Mullin, RN of the Sleep Disorders CenterGood sleep is an important part of staying physically and mentally healthy, helping prevent conditions like hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression and impaired cognitive processes.

In 2016, The University of Kansas Health System's Sleep Disorders Center tested more than 1,500 patients, twice the number tested just five years ago.

Center Director Bob Whitman, PhD, said the increase has been steady. "More physicians are recognizing the symptoms of sleep apnea – and there's an overall rise in the number of patients seen at the hospital," he explained.

Related link: Learn more about our sleep disorder specialists

Located several blocks south of the main campus, the center primarily tests for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but it also looks for more than 80 other sleep disorders, from insomnia and restless leg syndrome to narcolepsy.

While 70 percent of patients spend at least one night in the lab, an increasing number can be tested at home using home sleep apnea tests (HSATs) that monitor breathing, oxygen levels and heart rate.

"For the most part, HSATs are a good thing," said Whitman. "Patients can sleep in the familiarity of their own bedroom, and it's a great option for people who won't come into the lab. It's also cheaper for them."

The sleep center started in 1977, the first in the area. Accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2007, it has expanded to include seven rooms and a staff of 11. Staff collaborate with pulmonary, ENT and neurology specialists at the hospital, giving the center an edge among the many local sleep facilities.

"Our challenge now is to keep up with demand," said Whitman. "We're hoping to bring additional sleep specialists on board soon so we can see patients in a more timely manner."

Whitman noted there are frequent improvements in continuous positive airway pressure therapy for OSA – masks are smaller and more comfortable, helping patients be more compliant with therapy. The health system also has Sleep Number beds in the lab, which keep patients comfy during tests.

Related link: Participating in a sleep study? Here's what you need to know.