In April, Sleep Medicine Specialist Hyung Park, MD started seeing patients every Tuesday in the Smokey Point clinic. The rest of
the week, he sees patients in the recently relocated office within Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon.
The most common complaints Dr. Park said he hears from patients are around insomnia and potential sleep apnea. In addition, he sees patients for restless leg, circadian rhythm disorders and narcolepsy.
Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. “That’s the biggest one I hear about,” Dr. Park said. “That can really effect a person’s quality of life.”
Sleep apnea is also a common problem and involves what Dr. Park calls the “big three:” Snoring, witnessed pauses in breathing and sleep and excessive drowsiness. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million American adults
have sleep apnea and the prevalence can be as high as 10 percent among all ages.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, featuring a mask that fits over the mouth and nose that blows air into the airway to keep it open during sleep. Other options, Dr. Park said, can include
mouth guards, surgery, implanted stimulators, position therapy (sleeping on your side) and lifestyle changes can help, such as weight loss.
Home sleep studies are also becoming more common and are often covered by insurance for younger, healthy patients. A home sleep study involves sending the patient home with what Dr. Park calls a “relatively simple device” that has just a few
wires to hook up. “We teach them how to do it,” he said, noting the device’s sensors take readings during sleep and store them in the machine for review by a tech when the patient returns it the next day.
Home studies are limited to specific situations when patients are suspected of having obstructive sleep apnea.
More complex cases require a sleep study at the Center for Sleep Disorders, a six-bed facility accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon. Overnight and daytime studies are available. For overnight studies,
patients arrive in the evening, checking in at Diagnostic Services Registration at Skagit Valley Hospital, and can head home or to work at 6 a.m.
Several occupations require sleep studies including pilots, boat captains, commercial vehicle drivers, train conductors and air traffic controllers. Often these are daytime studies for those who work overnight.
“Not everyone sleeps at night, some sleep during the day,” said Robert Mortensen, RRT, Regional Director of Respiratory Therapy, Cardiopulmonary and Sleep Medicine for Skagit Regional Health. “We can be flexible and our times can be
variable for patients based on their sleep schedule.”