By Timothy Layman
Interim Chief Executive Officer/Chief Nursing Officer, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital
The importance of high-quality sleep can’t be emphasized enough within the context of your overall health. Proper sleep allows our brains to promote healing, recharge and gives us a break from the constant stimuli we process 24/7. Many realities of modern life conspire to either rob us of our rest or compromise its quality, including our dependence on digital devices, eating and drinking things that don’t support good sleep, and plain old burning the candle at both ends.
If living with low-quality, erratic, or insufficient sleep becomes our norm; however, we put ourselves at risk for some severe health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Inadequate rest can lead to obesity and depression. Sleep problems aren’t only defined by a lack of sleep, either. Stroke and heart attack risk can go up as a result of getting too much sleep, as well.
Though simplistic, many of us are unaware of what we can do to support our rest, including:
- Rising and going to bed at similar times each day
- Eating dinner when you’ll have a few hours to digest it before going to bed
- Engaging in regular physical exercise
- Managing stress with tools like yoga and meditation
- Refraining from drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
- Evicting electronic devices from the bedroom
In addition to developing healthy pre-sleep habits, prescription medications can offer assistance as well, if you have trouble falling or staying asleep.
Highlands-Cashiers Hospital has our own Sleep Center that your primary care physician can refer you to if you have a suspected sleep disorder – there are over 80 that exist.
In addition to the HCH Sleep Center’s full accreditation by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, we recently received a prestigious certification from the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), which defines the highest quality benchmarks for both sleep lab centers and home sleep testing services. The ACHC’s representatives visited our Sleep Center and observed our board-certified sleep technologists as they treated patients. They also inspected our rooms to ensure that we met the quality, integrity, and effectiveness mandates for sleep lab testing standards.
Only through a sleep center study, for example, can you be tested for obstructive sleep apnea, one of the most common sleep disorders. This condition causes a person to stop breathing for short periods (apnea) as they sleep, because their throat muscles relax and block their airway. When sleep is interrupted countless times per night like this, significant daytime sleepiness, irritability, and headaches result. This disorder also has long-term consequences: It raises the risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and other acute diagnoses.
Our patients can choose to do their sleep study, which involves a connection to monitors that measure breathing, heart rate, and other physiological components, either at our center or at home. The advantage of an in-lab test is that it collects much more data than the at-home version. Both tests monitor oxygen intake, pulse and body movements, but the lab version records additional data, like eye, leg, jaw movement, and brain changes.
An in-lab test involves wearing sensors connected to your head, chin, chest, and legs, as well as soft belts around your chest and stomach to monitor breathing. Patients are encouraged to use their pillow and blankets so they can be as comfortable as possible.
If diagnosed with sleep apnea, you’re encouraged to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine, and using one to see if it improves sleep is an option during an in-lab study. The CPAP keeps the oxygen flowing and prevents the intermittent breathing breaks – and future health problems – that sleep apnea brings. Some believe that CPAPS are cumbersome and noisy, but there are more choices available now that are smaller, quieter, and offer greater patient comfort.
Good sleep is something we all deserve and need. You can now “rest assured” that Highlands-Cashiers Hospital can offer you a top-notch resource for testing and treating any sleep problem you may be having.
I’d like also to update you on another important HCH matter. We are diligently searching for a physician for our Cashiers Primary Care location and we are using multiple means to recruit applicants, including an array of job boards, such as HCA Healthcare’s Practice with Us, Practice Link, American Academy of Family Physicians, North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians and many more. HCA Healthcare’s hiring team sent an email blast to 1,964 Family Medicine/Internal Medicine physicians recently, and we have recruitment events scheduled with six residency programs this summer and fall at Carolinas Medical Center, Wake Forest, Duke, UNC, and others. We feel confident our search will yield a physician who will match the needs of the community.
For a regular update on the progress until the position is filled, please check this column each month either in your local newspaper, online at missionhealth.org/highlandscashiers or on the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Facebook page.
Timothy Layman, DNP, is the Interim Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. Layman holds a PhD in Nursing Practice from Yale University, a MS in Nursing Administration from LaRoche College and a BS in Nursing from Pennsylvania State University. Before coming to Angel Medical Center and Mission Health, he served as Vice President for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Thomas Jefferson University. Layman currently serves on the faculty of Thomas Jefferson University and Yale University.