New sleep clinic helping patients catch zzz's - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New sleep clinic helping patients catch zzz's

August 5, 2005

Albany - Millions of people suffer from some type of sleep disorders. Many haven't had a good night's rest in years. More than 1,400 south Georgians sought help from those restless night at the Phoebe Putney Sleep Clinic last year. Now, the hospital has moved its clinic to a new office on Meredyth Drive in Albany.

Virginia Waters's day job helped her solve her night problem about five year ago, when she was working as a medical transcriptionist at Phoebe Putney. "I recognized from transcribing the sleep reports I had a lot of the same symptoms these patients had," said Waters.

Waters couldn't sleep throughout the night. Her husband said she snored a lot and would stop breathing. Restless nights left her exhausted. "I was tired all the time. I would sit at my desk and practically go to sleep."

She decided to visit the hospital's Sleep Clinic and was diagnosed with a common sleep disorder called Sleep Apnea.

"When a person goes to sleep, the soft pallet falls against the back of the throat and basically cuts the airway off," said Director Bob Baldree. "The patients is constantly waking up or taking gasps during their sleep."

Director Bob Baldree says since 1992 the sleep clinic has treated more than 12,000 people. They outgrew the center in the hospital's main campus. So they opened a new ten-bed, $1.2 million clinic on Meredyth Drive.

"We had six beds in the hospital, but it wasn't as conducive to sleep as this facility will be because the atmosphere in the hospital is a lot noisier," said Baldree.

The new clinic feels more like a hotel than a medical facility. As patients sleep, doctors watch and monitor their sleeping patterns.

"From that we're able to tell what stage of sleep a person is in, the quality of their sleep, how well they are going through different stages of sleep, whether they're breathing the way they should be," said Baldree.

Many patients can be treated with a C-PAP, or continuous positive airway pressure. "Basically it's a mask we put over the patient's nose. It basically keeps the airway open all the time so they are able to breathe in and out against a constant flow of pressure," said Baldree.

And the difference, "The day I had that CPAP study was probably the best night's sleep I had in a very long time, just a long time," said Waters. Waters now has more energy thanks to better night's sleep delivered by the sandmen of the sleep clinic.

The new sleep clinic has reduced the turn around time on sleep studies from two months to just two days.

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