GREENFIELD — Centeria Turner has a lot more pep in her step since undergoing a sleep study at Hancock Regional Hospital this year.
The Indianapolis woman sufferers from narcolepsy and sleep apnea, which zaps her of energy and makes falling asleep and waking up a challenge. Not to mention summoning enough energy to get through each day.
Turner, 33, is among those who have undergone sleep studies at the recently remodeled and expanded sleep center at the Greenfield hospital.
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The new center is roughly 10 times its previous size, said Randy Campbell, who has directed the center since it first opened 16 years ago.
Campbell, who has been a certified sleep technician since 1999, is passionate about helping patients pinpoint and combat their sleeping issues, so they can enjoy their best possible sleep.
“Sleep affects the whole body, and can be a direct line to heart problems,” said the director, outlining how the condition affects the body throughout the night.
He and his staff were preparing to move and expand the center when COVID hit in March, so the move didn’t take place until early June. While it just moved across the hall, the newly refurbished center is much bigger and better than it was before, Campbell said.
Decorated in calming tan, brown and blue hues, the center is located just off a quiet hallway on the hospital’s third floor.
The six sleep study bedrooms are each furnished with adjustable Sleep Number beds, along with a full private bathroom, couch, desk and flat screen TV. The CPAP machines and other equipment used in each room are tucked away in a tall cabinet, giving the rooms more of a homey, less institutional feel.
It’s a far cry from what many patients expect, said Campbell, who added that some people coming in for overnight studies think they’ll be left to sleep on a cot in the hall. “Some people are terrified to come. It’s a stigma we have to work through,” he said.
The control room at the sleep center is a long, narrow room with 15 large-screen TVs on one wall, showing not only what’s going on in each sleep study room, but the data being generated from the various monitors hooked up to each patient.
Three or four registered sleep technologists work at a time, monitoring patients throughout the night. The center also conducts tests throughout the day to assess those suffering from narcolepsy or seizures.
Patients can only have a sleep study done with a physician referral. They’re then assigned a night to come in for an overnight study, during which they’re connected to a monitoring system that allows technicians to assess their patterns of sleep.
Those diagnosed with sleep apnea are invited back to test out a CPAP machine overnight at the center, although an increasing number have been monitored from home due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Campbell has seen patients exhibit a wide range of unusual behaviors while asleep. One repeatedly did an “alligator roll” in his sleep, flipping over in one swift movement, while another stood up out of bed and sang “Kung Fu Fighting” while chopping and kicking the air.
While some patients laugh at their reported behaviors, Campbell hopes no patient shies away from doing a sleep study out of potential embarrassment.
“We’re here to help get people back to healthy sleep patterns. We’re not here to judge. We’re here to help,” he said.
The sleep center staff makes sure to follow up with patients using a computer tracking system that monitors their CPAP use. If there’s a problem, they reach out to the patient to check for problems and help them adjust their mask.
Since an increasing number of studies have been done at home lately, Campbell said technicians are trained to assist patients over the phone when necessary.
“We can video conference with them and help them with their masks,” Campbell said. Personal follow-up with clients has been essential to helping restore healthy sleep, he added.
He encourages those who have been thinking about getting a sleep study done to go ahead and seek one.
“We have a lot of people who come in for the study who then are hesitant to use a CPAP machine, and a lot of times two years to the day they were in they come back saying they can’t function and they need to try it,” he said.
“A friend of mine had been wearing a CPAP for a year and didn’t notice any change, so he went off it. About three weeks later he was at work and his head hit the desk when he suddenly fell asleep. He realized it had been working all along,” Campbell said.
Turner said the sleep center staff has been great to work with, and that she had a pleasant experience when she underwent a sleep study at the center in June.
“It was very clean and felt secure,” said Turner, who was happy to see the staff was following protocols like frequent hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing in light of the pandemic.
Her sleep technician was patient and answered all her questions throughout, she said. It took her a little while to fall asleep, which is no different from when she’s at home, she said.
“I didn’t feel like there were any additional distractions keeping me awake,” she said.
Turner had a previous sleep study and been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Her June visit was to test out a new CPAP machine.
She’s been thrilled with the change in her sleep patterns since using her new device each night.
Marcia Byrket, 67, of Spiceland, was also a fan of her sleepover at the sleep center. She was previously diagnosed with sleep apnea, but the condition disappeared after she lost weight, she said.
Due to a series of health issues, she underwent another sleep study to rule out any problems.
Randall Pitts, 54, who lives in Carthage, also spent the night at the center recently. He returns next week to go over his results.
He works nights, which can make getting a restful sleep especially challenging, he said.
“When I get off work at 10 a.m. I’ve got my second wind, so I have to work to get myself to sleep,” he said.
He’s had friends who insist they love their CPAP machines, so he’s hopeful that if he’s diagnosed he’ll feel the same.
Byrket encourages anyone with potential sleep problems to pursue getting a sleep study done at the center.
Take something boring to read to put you to sleep, she said, and don’t worry about the technicians checking on you through the night.
“They’re there to help, so just don’t worry about it and go in there get it done. It will give you peace of mind,” she said.
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Sleep apnea impacts more than just snoring, sleep center director says. Page A4