Chatham Hospital Sleep Center
By Angela Delp, as appeared in the June 1, 2007 edition of The Chatham News
Many people suffer from sleep disorders. But there’s help for those who do in Chatham County.
Chatham Hospital opened its Sleep Center, which employs one sleep technician, on August 21, 2006. The center cares for patients with insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome. “People usually see the doctor for snoring or insomnia,” said Chatham Hospital CEO Carol Straight. “Sometimes we have patients who fall asleep during the day.”
The sleep lab consists of two “bedrooms,” which are devoid of hospital equipment. The rooms are equipped with video cameras so technicians can observe the patient’s behavior as they sleep. “We wanted the rooms to resemble hotel rooms or real bedrooms,” Straight said. “We didn’t want it to look like a hospital.”
Primary care physicians often refer people to the sleep clinic. According to director of cardiopulmonary Cecilia Gonzalez, patients spend the night at the hospital. Patients check into the lab between 7:30 and 8 p.m. The technician then places sensors on the patient’s body similar to those used for EKGs. The sensors will monitor the patient’s vital signs as they sleep. “We let them choose when to wake up,” she said. “We wake the patients and send the study to the Sleep Center at UNC.”
Gonzalez added that if the study results in unusual finds, the patient is sent to UNC in Chapel Hill for a second study.
Untreated sleep disorders can lead to hypertension, irregular heartbeat, stroke, anxiety and depression. “Doctors explain the risks of untreated sleep disorders to patients,” Straight said. “After this, the patient usually becomes more conscientious about treating the problem.” One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is a machine called a CPAP or “continuous positive airway pressure.” The machine is designed to keep a person’s airway open and consists of a mask which fits over the patient’s face as they sleep. Straight said CPAP machines are the most effective treatment. “The machines are so small they are easy to travel with,” she said.
The Chatham Hospital Sleep Center is open Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. “In the future, we hope to increase the number of nights we are open,” Straight said.