Finding the way to a good night’s sleep

He says it like it’s a joke but it’s not. “We’re really in the hospitality business,” says Michael Eichenberg, RPSGT, manager at Banner Sleep Center on the northwest corner of the Banner Desert/Cardon Children’s Medical Center campus in Mesa, where technicians seek reasons for interrupted sleep.

Eichenberg and others on the Sleep Center team take very seriously their responsibility to help children (and adults) who come through the center feel comfortable about spending a night away from home.

The cozy bedroom in which patients dream the night away while technicians monitor their sleep.

The room in which they sleep is comfortably appointed and decorated in soothing earth tones. The temperature can be controlled to suit each guest’s needs. Children’s books are available for younger visitors; a flat-screen TV offers pre-bedtime entertainment. The room has its own restroom with a shower. In the morning, when the study ends, participants are offered juice and snacks before the drive home.

Multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint and I spent some time in this room where visitors sleep the night away, dreaming about answers to chronic sleep deprivation while technicians in a room down the hall watch video feed and squiggly lines on a computer screen, seeking clues to the underlying problem.

It’s called polysomnography–the study of sleep. And the data-rich reports it generates help doctors diagnose conditions that, left untreated, can literally shave years off of a life.

Vicki sets up for the shoot at Banner Sleep Center.

Patients typically are referred to the Sleep Center by their primary care physician. Something comes up during a routine visit–“My child is snoring a lot” or “My child is sleepy and lethargic throughout the day” or even “I don’t understand why my child’s grades are dropping.” If the doctor suspects a relationship to poor sleep, a referral to the Sleep Center is made to determine the cause.

I’m someone who takes my sleep seriously. I get very cranky and unfocused when I suffer periodic bouts of insomnia. (Ask my family or co-workers.) So imagine facing every day with that kind of handicap. You’d never feel like yourself. You’d struggle to do routine tasks–let alone learn new ones. A persistent state of irritability might even make you misbehave. What Michael told me is that people who chronically miss out on the benefits of a full night’s sleep are setting themselves up for stress-related health conditions that can seriously impair their quality of life–and even shorten it.

Michele Dickinson of Maricopa suffers from mild, chronic sleep apnea, so she gets it. Three of her five children, for three different reasons, have been evaluated at Banner’s Sleep Center.

Nathan (7) was a preemie, so he’s had a number of medical issues, some of which affected his sleep. Megan (9) had some issues with her soft palette. Both children’s issues have since resolved; Nathan’s chronic snoring required removal of his adenoids and tonsils.

Lauren shows us how the CPAP headgear is worn.

Lauren (11), has obstructive sleep apnea for which there is not a surgical cure. She was struggling with excessive daytime sleepiness, falling asleep during lessons and had no energy to go outside and play.

Lauren is now sleeping soundly, with the help of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.  The equipment forces air down her throat throughout the night so it can’t constrict and impair her breathing.

She says she doesn’t even notice it. And  ever since she started CPAP therapy, her mom says, she’s a completely different child.

Watch RAK Video to learn more about the Sleep Center and diagnosing sleep disorders. Watch Michael Eichenberg demonstrate how the monitoring equipment is set up and learn more  about how CPAP therapy works.

And watch for Vicki’s related “Health Matters” article in the December print edition of Raising Arizona Kids, which will be out next week. It offers tips to help all families ensure better quality of sleep.

CPAP therapy has given Lauren what many of us take for granted: a good night's sleep.

Many thanks to Dickinson family for driving up from Maricopa to help with our video shoot! Clockwise from top left: mom Michele, Lauren (11), Nathan (7) and Megan (9). Michele homeschools her children, in part because the family's multiple medical issues (which include asthma) require frequent trips to the doctor.

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