Shelton sleep lab helps people improve their functioning

Dr. Christina Abavana, who specializes in sleep medicine at the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, is medical director of the newly opened St. Vincent’s Medical Center Sleep Care Center on Corporate Drive in Shelton.

Dr. Christina Abavana, who specializes in sleep medicine at the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, is medical director of the newly opened St. Vincent’s Medical Center Sleep Care Center on Corporate Drive in Shelton.

Brian Gioiele/Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Getting a good night's sleep was easier said than done for Daniel Farm.

Farm, a chef by trade, had always felt he was sleeping well. He knew he snored, but in recent years he would wake up with a sore throat and be lethargic later in the day. That’s when he turned to Dr. Christina Abavana, who specializes in sleep medicine at the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group.

“I had to get this under control,” Farm, a Shelton resident, said. “I would come home from work every day exhausted. My wife would wake me up every night because of my snoring. I have a boy on the way. This needed to be straightened out.”

For those suffering sleep problems, such as Farm had been, Shelton is now home to St. Vincent’s Medical Center Sleep Care Center, which is located 4 Corporate Drive. The center has four private patient rooms available for overnight sleep studies of adult patients.

“Sleep disorders are very common in the United States, affecting some 40 million people,” Abavana, the Sleep Care Center’s medical director, said. “Sadly, they are largely undiagnosed and treated. That means there are many, many people who get up every morning lacking the restoration their bodies and minds need to function because they cannot get a good night’s sleep.”

Last year, Farm was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. He now uses continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, and he says he could not be happier with the results.

“My day-to-day life has improved so much,” Farm, chef at Café 4 in the 4 Corporate Drive medical building, said. “I never thought of using a CPAP before, but now I have found I can’t live without it. It is life-changing.”

A CPAP machine uses a hose connected to a mask or nose piece to deliver constant and steady air pressure to help the user breath while asleep.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women have obstructive sleep apnea. About 90 percent of those cases are undiagnosed. The resulting sleep deprivation is linked to 100,000 motor vehicle accidents each year. Sleep deprivation can also affect metabolism, energy level and weight.

“Untreated OSA can be very dangerous for people, increasing the risk of such health conditions as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and decreased quality of life,” Abavana said.

The condition, she said, occurs when a person stops breathing while sleeping, interrupting their sleep throughout the night.

“People often wake up gasping for breath or sounding like they are choking. It can be very frightening to them and their partner,” she said.

Other sleep disorders addressed at the Sleep Care Center include excessive daytime sleepiness; narcolepsy or falling asleep at inappropriate times; insomnia; parasomnias such as night terrors or sleepwalking; restless leg syndrome; and periodic limb movement disorder.

“Any of these conditions can affect the quality of one’s sleep, which in turn affects their ability to function at their best,” Abavana, who is also board certified in neurology, said.

Signs of sleep problems, according to Abavana, include snoring, choking or gasping for breath while sleeping, feeling tired after sleeping, nodding off while driving, and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Abavana said every stage of sleep serves a purpose, and people need to make sure to get enough sleep to be able to cycle between all stages of sleep - dreaming and non-dreaming. She said people, on average, need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

“The sleep lab is the gold standard,” she said. “Sometimes there is apprehension. When some people think of about potential treatments like the CPAP, they can get nervous. It can feel daunting.”

She said she encourages people to just start the process and get evaluated, then talk about options.

“In the end it may not be what you think, so I tell people to take this one step at a time,” she said. “I find that once we’re done, people come back and are happy they did it.”

Business has been booming, too, since the facility opened two months ago. Abavana said three to four beds are used daily for sleep studies.

Sleep lab patients come in and sleep overnight and have their sleep evaluated. When they arrive, they are given a room. Once ready for bed, sleep technicians place leads on the person so their sleep can be monitored.

People usually sleep seven to nine hours, then the data obtained is evaluated for any abnormalities.

“We know that sleep serves a vital purpose,” she said. “A third of life is spent sleeping so just thinking of that, it must serve a vital role. Almost every organ system is affected by sleep.”

For more information on sleep studies at the Shelton Sleep Care Center, call 475-210-5056 or go to www.hartfordhealthcare.org/services/sleep-disorders.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com