"To sleep, perchance to dream…"Hamlet

by francine Hardaway on December 30, 2004

“To sleep, perchance to dream…”Hamlet said those words, because he couldn’t sleep. And neither can many Americans, for one reason or another. Some of us just choose not to get enough sleep; we are busy working, we have babies that wake us at night, or we party too hard. Others of us *can’t* sleep; we have insomnia, we snore, we’re depressed, or we quit breathing in our sleep and that wakes us up.

Or it doesn’t. World-famous football player Reggie White died last week in his sleep. Reports say he had a heart attack due to sleep apnea.

According to the Sleep Foundation, Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that is far more common than generally understood. First described in 1965, sleep apnea is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.” In Greek, apnea means �want of breath.�

There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the breathing muscles to initiate respirations. Obstructive sleep apnea, far more common, occurs when air cannot flow into or out of the person�s nose or mouth although efforts to breathe continue.

In a given night, the number of involuntary breathing pauses or �apneic events� may be as high as 20 to 60 or more per hour. These breathing pauses are almost always accompanied by snoring between apnea episodes, although not everyone who snores has apnea. Sleep apnea can also be characterized by choking sensations.

The frequent interruptions of deep, restorative sleep often lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and may be associated with an early morning headache.

Early recognition and treatment of sleep apnea is important because it may be associated with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Because doctors now realize how dangerous sleep apnea can be, there are sleep test centers in many hospitals, and patients go there for a night of monitored rest.

But who can get a good night’s sleep in a hospital?

Responding to his own need for a sleep test, serial entrepreneur David Kaye decided to fine tune the concept of the sleep test to make it more patient friendly.

And that’s how I came to be spending a night last week in a Mesa hotel, being a beta tester before the launch of the first Sleepwell Diagnostic Center in Arizona.

Kaye has already rolled out similar centers in Oregon in Utah, and is in the process of making a nationwide deal with a hotel chain to roll the company out all over the U.S. For each center, he leases part of a floor in the hotel, and fits it out like a cross between a home and a sleep center. This center opens in January, and it needed a guinea pig or two to test all the systems. I’ll try anything once, especially if it’s for a client and fellow entrepreneur, so I allowed myself to be persuaded to try it.

One thing is certain; it didn’t feel like going to a lab in a hospital.

I showed up at about 8:30 PM, and met a very nice technician who began attaching electrodes to my legs, head, and heart. It took about forty minutes to hook me up. He answered all my questions, and I told him to be aware that I would be up twice during the night processing the two liters of water I drink during the day. Then I went to bed in the hotel room, watching CNN while he went into the data center to watch me.

All night long the monitors recorded information from about twenty-five centers in my brain that are involved with sleep. These tell whether I go through all the stages of sleep during the night, and how much of the night is spent in deep, restorative sleep. They also tell whether I am dreaming, although not WHAT I am dreaming.

At the same time, a monitor across my chest keeps track of my heart and lungs, and one on my face measures whether I breathe in and out regularly, and what the quality of my breathing is while I sleep.

Another set of monitors measures leg movements to see if I have restless leg syndrome, another condition that robs people of sleep.

Did I mention that I am the sleep queen? I can sleep anywhere, under any conditions. So I wasn’t bothered at all by all the wires. I did get up my customary two times, and had to be disconnected from the machines briefly, but reconnecting once you’re hooked in originally only takes a second.

At about 5:30 AM I awoke, as I always do. I took a shower and went downstairs to use the hotel’s fitness center and then eat the hotel’s complimentary breakfast (waffles). That was pretty cool.

And then I drove off into the dawn to go home and explain it all to the dogs.

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