For years, Howard Harinstein, DPM, Chief, Section of Podiatry at Bridgeport Hospital, was tired. Mentally sharp in the morning, he went to work every day. But by the afternoon, after his clinical work was complete, his eyelids began to droop and exhaustion forced him to take short naps to get by until nightfall.
After the sun went down, however, his sleep was far from restful. “I tossed and turned; I took medication to help me fall asleep. Then I dozed rather than slept, and I woke up throughout the night,” he says. His wife, Cynthia, asked him to sleep in the spare bedroom because he snored, which disturbed her sleep.
The Center for Sleep Medicine
Bridgeport Hospital sleep studies take place in the beautifully renovated Bridgeport Holiday Inn. Patients relax in the comfort of a private hotel room and enjoy a complimentary breakfast buffet in the morning.
Then he noticed he didn’t dream anymore.
Dr. Harinstein mentioned all of his symptoms—the daily exhaustion, the restless sleep, his lack of dreams—to his doctor, family medicine physician Jennifer Ju, MD. Dr. Ju listened carefully. She suspected Dr. Harinstein might have a sleep disorder and recommended he meet with the doctors in Bridgeport Hospital’s Center for Sleep Medicine.
Meeting with the Sleep Center staff, Dr. Harinstein didn’t hold back. “I told them I wanted something to help me. I needed my life back,” he remembers. “It was a relief to talk to specialists who knew exactly what I was feeling.” Based on his symptoms, the team recommended a formal sleep study for Dr. Harinstein.
“We recommend sleep studies for patients who demonstrate the classic symptoms of sleep apnea,” says Medical Director of Bridgeport Hospital’s Center for Sleep Medicine Armand Wolff, MD. Symptoms include sleepiness or disturbed sleep, a history of snoring, gasping and/or interrupted breathing while asleep, narrowing of the upper airway visible through the mouth and the presence of other illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. Sleep apnea commonly affects middle-aged and older adults and people who are overweight. “By discovering and treating a sleep disorder, we can restore people to a better level of functioning during the day,” Dr. Wolff continues.
Could You Have a Sleep Disorder?
- Sleep like a log but feel groggy and tired throughout the day?
- Snore loudly at night?
- Wake up frequently during the night?
- Feel painful or crawling sensations in your legs at bedtime?
- Have vivid, frightening or violent dreams?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, an undiagnosed sleep disorder may be robbing you of a good night’s rest. Please talk with your doctor about a referral for a consultation or sleep study, or call Bridgeport Hospital’s Center for Sleep Medicine directly at 203-384-3817.
Did You Know? Lack of Sleep Can Affect Heart Health!
The more we learn about sleep, the more we understand how getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is very beneficial to our overall health. In addition to affecting our memory, our moods and our energy levels, research has shown that too little sleep, interrupted sleep and sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, also take a toll on the heart.
“Sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats and an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke,” says Director of Bridgeport Hospital’s Center for Sleep Medicine Armand Wolff, MD. “Research has shown a link between lack of sleep and elevated blood pressure. Blood pressure levels should naturally drop when we sleep. It’s a normal response. People with sleep apnea or who aren’t sleeping enough do not experience that nightly drop in blood pressure. Over time, a sustained blood pressure level may be harmful to the heart.”
If it’s been awhile since you’ve felt rested, please talk to your doctor about ways you can improve your sleep— and possibly protect your heart.
Dr. Harinstein arrived in the evening for the sleep study and got ready for bed as usual. A sleep technician attached special leads (sensors) to his head and chest. In the comfort of a private room, he relaxed by watching a favorite television show.
Falling asleep wasn’t difficult, as Dr. Harinstein was always worn out. While he slept, the technicians monitored the leads which measured Dr. Harinstein’s breathing, oxygen level, movement, brain waves and heartbeat for the entire night.
In the morning, the team had some news for Dr. Harinstein. “They told me I had slept all night but I woke up hundreds of times and was pretty restless,” he says.
Soon after the study, Dr. Harinstein met with the sleep specialists to go over his results. He had sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. People who have sleep apnea stop breathing for up to a minute during sleep. As they struggle to breathe, the brain reacts by waking the person up enough to reopen the upper airway. This cycle can repeat hundreds of times a night.
“I knew something was going on with me, but I never suspected that’s what it was. Sleep apnea was one of those things that I thought couldn’t happen to me,” he says. “I was most surprised to find out how many times I actually stopped breathing during the night while I was asleep. That’s frightening. The funny thing is, I never remembered waking up or sleeping restlessly, but I was always exhausted. This, I was told, is a classic sign of sleep apnea.”
The Center for Sleep Medicine
Sleep study patients are welcome to all the amenities of the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, including the indoor pool and fitness center.
Dr. Harinstein was fitted for a special mask hooked up to a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. “I found out I was a nose breather,” he says with a smile. “There are mouth breathers and nose breathers, and masks for both.”
A true quality-of-life-saver for those with sleep apnea, a CPAP machine keeps a person’s airway open. The machine delivers a steady stream of air through a mask placed over the nose and/or mouth during sleep. The pressure of the air from the machine is continuous and somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air, which is just enough to keep the upper air way passages open. This prevents apnea and snoring. “With severe sleep apnea, CPAP cer tainly is the best therapy. It works along the whole spectrum of severity, so it is usually the first step,” says Dr. Wolff. If a patient is unable to use CPAP, there are other options, including surgery. Weight loss is an important part of therapy for nearly every patient.
Dr. Harinstein didn’t struggle with the CPAP mask. “The mask was no trouble at all for me,” he says. “After the first night using it, I felt completely restored.”
“Today, more people know about sleep apnea but there i s still a perception that people who are sleepy are just slow or lazy and that their poor performance is related to initiative rather than a medical problem,” says Dr. Wolff. “When people don’t sleep well, they just don’t function as well as they could. Sometimes the impairment is subtle, and sometimes it is life-altering. Diagnosis and treatment of a sleep disorder may improve job performance, school performance and social relationships. We have a number of patients who say that we have saved their lives. Obviously, this is quite a bit different than what this means in the Intensive Care Unit, but restoring vitality and quality of life for relatively young and otherwise healthy people is what we do.”
“CPAP therapy has changed my entire life,” says Dr. Harinstein. “I now feel completely rested in the morning and my dreams have returned. Most importantly, I have my energy back and enough stamina to keep working into the evening without a nap.” Dr. Harinstein also hosts a radio show on WICC 600 AM. “I’m so happy I had a sleep study. I was truly suffering in silence—except for the snoring,” he jokes, “but not anymore!”
For more information or an appointment with a sleep expert from Bridgeport Hospital’s Center for Sleep Medicine, please call 203-384-3817.