KLST Special Report: Studying Sleep


It’s an all too common nightmare: Americans are not getting enough sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2018 “Sleep in America Poll,” only 69% of those who were assessed felt they were getting enough sleep to be productive throughout the day.

There are multiple variables that can affect a person’s nightly sleep regimen, including hte inability to prioritize a restful night’s sleep, but it could also signify great health issues as well. 

The Shannon Clinic Sleep Center in San Angelo specializes in monitoring how Concho Valley residents sleep. Their main focus is on sleep apnea, and the dangers it can entail. 

“Probably 90% of our job is treating obstructive sleep apnea, or testing for it,” explains Edith Gravley, Chief Technician for the sleep center. “But we can watch them when they have those periods when they stop breathing. And apnea is considered to be at least 10 seconds long. Some of our patients go up to two minutes where they don’t breathe. ‘”

Gravley and her staff of Respiratory Therapists are trained to monitor patients for sleep disorders throughout the night. A typical sleep study in their four bedroom sleep lab last for six hours. 

Using sensors called electrodes, that are attached to multiple parts of the body, they can track movement, breathing and brain activity. The information is all relayed bay to their computer system with the tracking software that documents every second. With this computing then can see the difference between simply engaging in sleep, versus actually getting restful sleep.

“We’re looking at their brain activity,” Garvley tells KLST. “We can tell when they’re awake, when they’re asleep. And when they’re going through their stages of sleep. So they have stage 1, 2, 3 and then REM. Because they’re having so many periods when they stop breathing, they’re constantly shifting, trying to get comfortable. And so they’re not getting the quality of sleep they’re supposed to. “

These sleep patterns vary from person to person. The average adult sleeps between 5-7 hours each day, versus the common “8 hours” that many consider the “perfect” amount of sleep. 

Sleep is related to quality of life. Dr. Steven Brewer, an Assistant Professor for the Department of Psychology at Angelo State University, has a background in neuroscience. He says there is a correlation between length of sleep and sleep quality, affecting your brain.

“It affects mood, it affects cognition,” explains Brewer. “It affects if you already have psychiatric problems or psychological disturbances; anxiety and those types of things, it can exacerbate that. And vice versa; this seems to be a two-way street there between sleep. So even if you’re healthy otherwise, it can induce symptoms that look like many disorders. ‘”

According to Brewer, lack of sleep is even tied to heart problems, a weaker immune system, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s later in life. Health overall is intimately tied with sleep.

To learn more about what regimen might be best for you, check out some of the following resources: 

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