Rest Easy

With busy lifestyles that require people to go, go, go, getting an adequate amount of sleep each night can be a difficult task for many.

Although a good night’s rest might seem like a luxury to some, not getting it might be building a debt too high to afford. According to the National Sleep Awareness Roundtable, a coalition with the mission of reducing the public health and safety impact of a sleep deprivation and sleep disorders,, 50 million to 70 million Americans have sleep disorders. The NSART further reports that the cumulative effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders have been associated with health consequences including: hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, stroke and at-risk behaviors.

NSART is a partner of The National Sleep Foundation, which offers sleep guidelines that recommend adults above the age of 18 get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 30 percent of U.S. workers in 2010, which is more than 40 million adults, got less than six hours of sleep per night.

The CDC identify insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea as the major sleep disorders. Insomnia is characterized by an inability to initiate or maintain sleep. Narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness, including episodes of irresistible sleepiness, combined with sudden muscle weakness. Restless legs syndrome is an unpleasant sensation that often feels as if it originates in the lower legs and causes difficulty initiating sleep. Sleep apnea is characterized by periodic gasping or snorting noises during which sleep is momentarily interrupted as well as experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness.

Although there are no easy ways to prevent the onset of a sleep disorder, practicing good sleep hygiene is the best place to start, says the National Sleep Foundation. The NSF defines sleep hygiene as a variety of practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness. The most important measure is maintaining a regular sleep and wake pattern seven days a week.

The NSF also recommends avoiding napping, stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime, vigorous exercise only in the mornings, minimizing distractions such as television, the radio or reading and getting an adequate exposure to natural light. For more information visit


There is hope for those those who feel as if they may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Area residents have access to an aspect of WCA Hospital called the WCA Sleep Center, which strives to treat sleep disorders and promote deep, fulfilling sleep.

According to Jennifer Wendel, WCA Sleep Center coordinator, the center is an accredited member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. By achieving accreditation, a sleep center demonstrates a commitment to the provision of quality diagnostic services and the longitudinal management of sleep patients.

Dr. Frank Arnal, WCA’s Sleep Center medical director, said that he hopes area residents will consider the services offered at WCA because the risks associated with a lack of sleep are numerous and dangerous.

“The main risk is mental functioning,” said Arnal. “Others include excessive fatigue, sleepiness, not as sharp, problems with concentration, inability to perform at your job, risk of accidents and memory problems. There are health risks as well, and obesity is clearly associated with people who don’t sleep as much as they should. Obesity is associated with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and more.”

Wendel links the increased risk of obesity to two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, that are released during the deep sleep cycle.

“If you’re not reaching the adequate amount of deep sleep cycle type of sleep you’re not releasing those hormones,” said Wendel. “If they aren’t released it leads to obesity.”

The sleep center began at WCA in 2004 with two beds, and has grown to a total of eight beds in early 2013. It gives area residents access to a primary care physician-referred sleep study, in which patients are monitored for six to eight hours. The patient’s sleep patterns will be monitored from a separate control room. The results will then be sent to the patient’s doctor to determine the appropriate type of treatment if a sleep disorder is found.

The center offers the following guidelines to help determine whether a sleep study could be beneficial to a patient: breathing stops while asleep; wake up gasping for air; partner complains of loud snoring; difficulty falling asleep; overweight; high blood pressure; wake up with headaches; suffering from depression; trouble concentrating; often feel tired; fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while driving or at work; take frequent naps; sleep walking; or experience involuntary body movement while asleep.

Once a patient has undergone the sleep study and the results examined, a treatment will be recommended by either the patient’s primary care physician or Arnal. According to Arnal, one of the most common treatments, for one of the most common sleep disorders, sleep apnea, is a continuous positive airway pressure machine, CPAP.

“It’s a mask that goes over the nose, or nose and mouth, and pressurized air dilates the upper-airway to prevent closure that is worn every night while sleeping,” said Arnal. “In the population in general it probably affects about 25 percent, and up to 50 percent in obese populations.”

For those who either do not want to try CPAP, or who cannot tolerate it, there are other therapies that Arnal can discuss with patients. One example is an oral appliance, which is a device that moves the jaw forward and is fitted by a dentist. There are also surgical options via ear, nose and throat doctors who can correct snoring to open the upper airway. However, Arnal said that surgery has a varying level of success.

Wendel’s husband was one of the first patients of the sleep center when it started 10 years ago. Wendel had the opportunity to watch his study, and she was surprised at how bad his sleep apnea was.

“Before he was treated and diagnosed he could be talking to me and half sentence would fall asleep,” said Wendel. “He was a wrestling coach, and his friends would joke that he could fall asleep on a wrestling mat in a loud gym. He was just so overtired because of his sleep disorder. So, he came in as our first test patient, we treated him, and to this day he wears a CPAP.”

According to Arnal, WCA Hospital does accept medical insurance for coverage of services at the sleep center. For more information call 664-8430 or visit