The Sleep Center helps patients rest and thrive

July 31, 2020

Clark Memorial Health’s Sleep Center can make a dramatic difference in a patient’s life overnight.

“There’s instant gratification when you treat a patient and they bound out of bed the next morning after they’ve been exhausted and miserable for years and years,” says Mala Lacaze, clinical coordinator of the Sleep Center.

Mala Lacaze of Clark’s Sleep Center
Mala Lacaze, Sleep Center clinical coordinator

People underestimate how important a good night’s sleep is, Mala adds. Other health problems are exacerbated by lack of rest, and sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea have much further-reaching effects than just leaving someone feeling tired.

“Sleep is necessary to maintain the brain’s ‘plasticity,’ or ability to adapt to input,” says Dr. Nick Harper of Clark Primary Care. “This is critical for memory, learning, and responding to certain situations. In addition, it is believed that sleep is the opportunity for the brain to restore itself and remove harmful waste products, which is not completed efficiently while we are awake.”

Good quality sleep is non-disrupted, not aided by alcohol or medications that aren’t for insomnia, and lasts for seven to eight hours, Dr. Harper adds.

If patients have found it hard to sleep in the chaos of 2020, it’s likely a normal response, Mala says.

“Whenever we experience significant or long-term emotional stress in our daily lives, this is going to impact our sleep,” she says. “Some of us will experience insomnia, often for the first time. We can have difficulty turning off the racing thoughts that creep in the moment we close our eyes. It’s important to remember this is normal and usually only temporary.

Sleep hygiene tips

“We may also find ourselves sleeping even more than usual. This can be a sign of depression that a lot of us are feeling with the changes to our lives. It’s important that we continue with an active lifestyle while maintaining social distancing. We need to continue to reach out to friends and loved ones to avoid feeling isolated.”

When it’s not stress keeping us awake, there’s a chance that sleep apnea could be the culprit, as this condition is the most common disorder the Sleep Center treats. Sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, depression, heart problems and more.

The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is still the number one way to treat sleep apnea. The Sleep Center team wants people to know how much this treatment has improved in recent years, thanks to machines with better sensitivity and more comfortable masks constantly being developed.

For some patients, a sleep study can reveal what’s disturbing their sleep. Patients can come to Clark’s sleep lab, which is designed to feel like home with private rooms and restrooms. The sleep lab is currently open at full capacity using social distancing protocols, COVID-19 testing for all patients before an overnight stay, and having patients wear a mask while entering the lab.

“The sleep study is a thorough test that gives us a good snapshot of what’s going on with the patient,” Mala says. “We monitor brain waves, heart rate, if the patient starts kicking their legs, respirations, snoring. It’s painless and gives us a clear picture of what’s going on.”

Home sleep studies are another convenient option currently available by curbside pick-up. Patients can sleep in their own bed before returning the sleep study package to be scored by the Sleep Center team.

Good sleep is life-changing for patients, Mala says. “Most of the time patients may not even realize how exhausted they are until they get a good night’s sleep. They’re not aware of how many other aspects of their life are affected.”

Learn more about the Sleep Center’s services.