Riverside Healthcare Podcasts

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Sleep Testing

Guest Bio: Kathleen Gallagher, RPSGT
Kathleen Gallagher is the Manager of the Sleep Disorder Institute at Riverside Healthcare.
    Sleep Testing
    Kathleen Gallagher, RPSGT explains what sleep testing is, who should be tested, and treatments available.

    Alyssa Diaz (Host):  And this is the Well Within Reach Podcast from Riverside Healthcare. I’m your host Alyssa Diaz. Today we have in the studio with us Kathleen Gallagher, the Manager of the Riverside Sleep Disorder Institute to talk about the topic of sleep testing. But before we get into the topic, let’s talk to Kathleen, and you’ve had a long history in healthcare and what brought you to the Sleep Testing Specialty?

    Kathleen Gallagher, RPSGT (Guest):  Hi Alyssa. Thanks for having me. Back in 2007, I found the study of sleep medicine very interesting. It was very up and coming at that time. So, that’s the time I went back to school to learn sleep medicine. Like you said, I’ve been in healthcare a long time. But I find it very rewarding unlike working in surgery where you don’t get to see what happens to your patients afterwards. With sleep medicine, we usually do get to see how well treating patients with sleep disorders really helps them going forward.

    Host:  And that’s a really good point that you bring up. If somebody undergoes sleep testing, it’s a lifelong relationship and you are always checking up on them, making sure that they are doing the best that they can.

    Kathleen:  Right. We do see a lot of repeat customers, so we like to follow up with our sleep patients and make sure that they are following protocol and doing what they need to do to stay healthy.

    Host:  That’s great and part of being healthy is getting a good night’s sleep and we all love a good night’s sleep. We feel super refreshed and ready to take on the day once we had that but sometimes, we struggle with getting that good night’s sleep. And sometimes that underlying cause is a medically based condition and that’s where sleep testing comes into play. So, let’s talk about sleep testing and why don’t you give us the actual definition and we’ll go from there.

    Kathleen:  So, we do actually a couple types of sleep testing at Riverside. Home sleep testing which has become very popular and overnight sleep testing. So, home sleep testing is really easy. It’s where you get to come into the sleep center. You meet with one of us. We’ll show you how to put this little device on and you get to go home and sleep with it and bring it back the next day. Whereas, overnight testing involves an overnight stay in the sleep center where we monitor quite a bit more than we do for home sleep tests. So, I always say a home sleep test is more of a screening tool versus the overnight test.

    Host:  Okay. And overnight testing as well as home sleep testing are all forms of polysomnography which is used to diagnose sleep disorders. But basically, we are recording the brain waves and the oxygen levels in your blood, your heart rate, your breathing, eye movements, leg movements and other sleep cycles and stages. Is that right?

    Kathleen:  Right. So, home sleep tests, when I say it’s a good screening tool; it’s really simple. There is a couple of belts that wrap around you so you can watch your breathing, a pulse oximeter which is just like when you go to the doctor’s office, they put that little thing on your finger to see your oxygenation in your blood. You sleep with one of those on all night long so we can see how that looks during your night’s sleep. And a little cannula for your nose that I tell everybody it looks like a oxygen cannula, but it really picks up pressure changes as you breathe in and out.

    So, whereas the overnight sleep study, like I said is a little more involved. So, yes, we do put some sensors on your head because we are watching electroconductivity brain waves. We want to see your stages of sleep. We monitor that, like you said leg movements in case your legs are moving, we still watch your breathing and your oximetry, but we are also watching your EKG. We are watching your heart during that sleep test too.

    Host:  And then are there any risks for individuals who my undergo sleep testing?

    Kathleen:  No, I tell people it is the easiest test they will ever have. There’s nothing painful about it. For some, it might take them a little bit longer to get to sleep but being as we are mostly a sleep deprived nation anymore; most people do fall asleep.

    Host:  And how would you prepare for something like the sleep testing appointment, for example, the one that’s overnight?

    Kathleen:  Real easy. We just ask that you just maybe take a shower before you come. Wipe off any surface oils that might be on your skin so that the sensors stick better. Bring something comfortable to sleep in, book to read. You have a TV in your room. And just so you know, the sleep room is really set up much like a hotel room. It’s not a hospital room. It’s not a hospital bed. Nice bedding. Comfortable pillows. Your own bathroom, thermostat and fans. So, hopefully all the comforts of home will be right there in that sleep room for you.

    Host:  That’s good. So, your staff really does work to make people as comfortable as possible even though we know that we are going under some testing, something like that, that home touch really helps to put people at ease sometimes.

    Kathleen:  It does. And a lot of people have this fear that they are being watched behind a big double sided mirror and that’s not the case either. We can view the patient, but it’s a very small little window, really just to make sure that there’s nothing wrong going on and just for the safety of the patient.

    Host:  And so really, when it comes down to what to expect, you talked about a little bit about what the room is like but even just coming in for your appointment, it’s just an easy check in and this obviously is overnight if you are a night sleeper and then do you offer day testing for day sleepers?

    Kathleen:  Absolutely we do. There’s a lot of people in this community that work night shift and so it’s better for them to sleep during the day, so we do offer day sleep times. We even offer evening times for patients to come in and pick up home sleep tests because not everybody is available during the day.

    Host:  And how long does a sleep study last?

    Kathleen:  We typically have patients arrive around eight o’clock at night and by ten o’clock, we are shuffling people off to bed because it’s really a time to test. I know people like to think they can stay there all day and sleep in in the morning. But we really only need six hours of recording time. So, we want to make sure we have enough time to observe the person who is sleeping and if they have any sleep disorder we need to treat; we can possibly treat it in the same evening as well.

    Host:  That’s really good. That leads to a really good question and how are the results determined?

    Kathleen:  So, the sleep technician who takes care of you, scores your sleep study based on how you are sleeping, sleep stages, any leg movements, breathing issues and then it’s read by the sleep doctor and from there, the results will go to their ordering physician. And depending on what it is that they need to have for the next step, they might be returning for part two of the sleep study or following up for other different reasons.

    Host:  What are some of the most common conditions that you find with sleep studies?

    Kathleen:  So, sleep apnea is probably the most common. People who stop breathing when they are sleeping. And of course, then they want to come back and be treated with a CPAP machine for that. We have patients who have leg movements so they might be placed on medication to stop any leg movements that are causing them to be awake. We have people who have REM behavior disorder where they move when they are supposed to be in dream sleep and paralyzed. There are I think 180 sleep disorders that are out there. So, quite a few things that we can treat.

    Host:  And how might individuals seek care for sleep related issues or just get in touch with your office?

    Kathleen:  I tell people to have a conversation with their primary doctor. Have a conversation about what you feel isn’t right with your sleep. Most people I talk to, just don’t feel that they are rested in the morning which tells me they are not getting a quality night’s sleep. So, initiate that conversation. Your insurance company wants you to have that face to face conversation with your physician. Get an order for a sleep study and then have it sent to our scheduling department and scheduling will get you scheduled for your sleep study.

    Host:  Okay, sounds great. And yes, that’s really important to have that initial conversation with your primary care provider because really, they do help to navigate you along your care journey. And as always, there’s more information available online at www.riversidehealthcare.org. Kathleen, thanks for jumping on the podcast with us today and wishing everyone out there a good night’s sleep.

    Kathleen:  Thank you.