Treatments & Procedures

If you do not get a good night’s sleep, there is often a high price to pay — reduced energy, greater difficulty concentrating, diminished mood and a greater risk for accidents, including motor vehicle accidents. Sleep plays a role in your overall health. Sleep deprivation has measurable negative effects on performance and physical and mental health. Lack of sleep can result in increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, stroke and even death. Quality rest, however, has been linked to health benefits such as improved memory, increased metabolism, and lower risk of heart disease and cancer.

The most common disorder is obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). In addition narcolepsy (an overwhelming drowsiness or sleepiness during the day), insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep), parasomnias (conditions that affect the sleep process and cause disruptive sleep events like nightmares, sleepwalking, night terrors, confused state upon awakening) and limb movement disorders round out the spectrum of sleep problems.

At Houston Methodist we offer a wide variety of diagnostic services and a comprehensive range of treatments. Our sleep laboratory and clinic use leading technology to provide outstanding specialized care for those with sleep disorders.

If you are plagued by a lack of sleep, here are some general healthy habits to consider implementing over the long term.

  • Maintain a consistent sleep routine, going to bed at the same time every day, including weekends.
  • Address lifestyle issues, including monitoring the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink.
  • Do not smoke before bed, as nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Eat dinner at least two hours before sleeping.
  • Regular exercise and managing stress can also help with sleep patterns.
  • Sleep in a dark, cool and quiet room.
  • Manage your use of electronics before bed: turn off your television, smartphone, electronic tablet and computer several hours before bed. Studies show the light emitted from screens can stimulate your brain and interfere with your body’s natural internal clock.
  • Keep a sleep diary to understand what may be interfering with a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Disorder Evaluation
Answering a few simple questions can help you decide whether or not you have a sleep disorder.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a complete sleep evaluation should be considered and discussed with your physician.

Overnight Sleep Studies
A sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, is a recording of biological activity during sleep at a sleep laboratory. It measures your sleep cycles and stages by recording brain waves (EEG), electrical activity of muscles, eye movement, breathing rate and airflow, body position, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation and heart rate and rhythm. In addition, the muscle activity in your chin and limbs are measured.

Your sleep study will be interpreted by a sleep study medical expert. The procedure is non-invasive (no needles or breaking the skin) and is not painful or uncomfortable. During the sleep study, a sleep technologist will track data using a state-of-the-art computer-based recording system to make a video of your sleep for the entire night.

Many patients require two sleep studies — the first study to determine the type and severity of the sleep disorder and the second study to determine the optimal treatment needed for your sleep disorder.

Reports are available to the patient’s physicians very soon after completion of the studies. All of the doctors involved in supervision and interpretation of sleep studies are board certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Please feel free to ask your technologist about anything related to your sleep study, but they will not be able to discuss results with you. Please direct all questions regarding study results to the doctor at the sleep clinic or to your physician.

Treating Sleep Disorders
Those who suffer from sleep apnea may not get enough oxygen while sleeping. This can lead to daytime drowsiness, headaches, irritability, mood swings, chronic fatigue, decreased sex drive or impaired memory or judgment. Recent studies also show that sleep apnea may cause cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke. Treatment includes a head and neck exam by a neurologist or oral and maxillofacial surgeons to see if there are any problems that may be affecting the patient’s breathing. Those with severe sleep apnea, may be prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is a light mask worn over the nose during sleep, allowing air through the nose in order for the airway to remain open. Other options include wearing oral appliances that help bring the tongue, jaw and soft palate forward, as well as surgical treatment options. 

For patients suffering sleep disorders from restless leg syndrome, there are home remedies that provide relief, which include a hot bath, heat and ice packs, massaging the affected area, pain relievers, regular exercise and the elimination of caffeine and tobacco. When these methods are not effective, patients might benefit from blood tests and medication. Because sufferers often respond to certain medications differently, your physician may try several different drugs over a period of time to see which is most effective.

Houston Methodist’s team of highly trained sleep specialists focuses on the treatment of patients with sleep disorders due to neurological conditions, such as narcolepsy, and the management of patients with sleep disordered breathing. Our experienced physicians also work with patients to understand the effects of psychiatric disorders and medications on sleep to restore the sleep-wake cycle when the disturbance is due to a psychiatric cause. Our extensive expertise includes cephalometric analysis (dental and skeletal relationships in the head) of the airway, skeletal surgery for the treatment of sleep apnea and dental sleep appliances. Treatments range from minimally invasive procedures, which can be performed in a clinic setting to techniques performed in the operating room.

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