Salisbury VA Health Care system expands sleep study capacity to serve more Veterans

Members of the Salisbury VA HCS Sleep Clinic team monitor a sleep study.
Members of the Salisbury VA HCS Sleep Clinic team monitor a sleep study.(Salisbury VAMC)
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 6:59 AM EDT
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - Veterans suffering with sleep apnea, daytime drowsiness, insomnia, and excessive snoring now may find relief through Salisbury VA Health Care System’s expanded Sleep Clinic. The clinic now boasts six beds with state-of-the-art equipment that can perform 42 overnight sleep studies per week.

Located on the Salisbury main campus, it will allow Salisbury to see patients previously sent out into the community. Sleep studies are one of the more requested procedures Salisbury VA sees. And if the past is any indication, demand will not be a concern.

“The demand is there and I think it will continue,” said Dr. Curtis Deloney, Sleep Medicine chief. “I’ve been here more than five years and it has not lessened at all.”

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, followed by sleep apnea. Many patients don’t consider the importance of sleep in their overall health care plan. However, its importance cannot be overstated.

“Sleep touches everyone,” said Deloney. “It’s connected to everything—mental health and physical health. Many patients will say they don’t have daytime sleepiness because they have become used to how they feel and think that’s the norm. And then when we treat the apnea they feel so much better. They’re like ‘Oh, this is how I’m supposed to feel.’”

Veterans with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress experience sleep issues at a higher rate than those in the civilian world. A sleep study can make a huge difference in one’s day-to-day health.

“You need a good night’s sleep for the body to restore,” said Cheryl Williams, Sleep Clinic supervisor. “And an additional benefit of a sleep study is that we monitor your respiratory system, EEG, which detects brain wave abnormalities, and the EKG, which checks for different heart conditions such as cardiac arrythmia.”

Turns out the sleep study is much more than just a sleep study. There are a couple of options available to Veterans. An in-home study could be viable for those who qualify. For patients with comorbid issues like heart failure, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or the need for oxygen, an overnight study would be required.

Although there remains a lot to be known about sleep, advancements are being made every day.

“There’s a lot of cutting-edge technology that has led to groundbreaking medication options for insomnia and narcolepsy,” said Deloney. “There also are new therapies for sleep apnea. A CPAP device is no longer the only option.”

A device called Inspire, inserted into the chest, uses an electrical pulse to keep the tongue from falling back and clogging up the airway, which leads to sleep apnea.

“It works well,” said Deloney. “Inspire is indicated for patients who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine. And VA covers the cost.”

For those looking for a simpler way to improve sleep, there are some strategies that can be used at home. These include keeping a regular bedtime and waketime, and no television, reading, or playing on the phone while in bed. According to Deloney, these changes can be more effective than insomnia medication.

Remember, the bedroom is for sleeping.

“If you use your bed for anything other than sleep, then it programs your mind to think the bedroom is not for sleeping,” said Williams. “That can throw everything off. The bedroom can become like a second living room.”

Veterans interested in scheduling a sleep study should contact their Primary Care team or call the Call Center at (800) 706-9126.

Provided to WBTV by the Salisbury VA Medical Center.

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