Search For Sleep: Man undergoes study to get better night's rest

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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ7) (Original story from Feb. 25, 2015) Sleep affects all of us in some way. For some, achieving a great night's sleep is a challenge.

WDBJ7 followed Malcolm Wyche on his journey to get better sleep.

Wyche, 44 of Buena Vista, is a cement truck driver.

"Driving is my income," Wyche said. "That's how I bring money home. I'm basically on call. They need us at 12, 1 2 o'clock in the morning, we got to go. You learn to adapt."

He's not taking any chances when it comes to work, so he tries to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

"It's probably about 10, 10:30, somewhere in there, "Wyche said. "But I won't actually doze off until late, probably around 12, 1 a.m."

But the things Wyche does in his sleep, startle his wife.

"I'm not aware of it, but she says that I snore really loud, that I wake myself up sometimes, and I stop breathing in my sleep," Wyche said.

Some days, he's fighting that sluggish feeling.

"You feel yourself doing one of these numbers -- pull over," Wyche said. "A lot of truckers don't do that -- they don't pull over. They want to keep driving, and that's how accidents happen. I don't want to be that statistic."

Wyche is going the extra mile by checking in to Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital's Sleep Center. Technician Lori Bodzioney watches him snooze, in a diagnostic sleep study.

"So we're really just trying to look and monitor and see, what are you doing," Bodzioney said. "Do you have snores? Do you have leg movements, do you have apnea?"

Wyche fills out a health questionnaire, and gets ready for bed like he normally does. The technician then wires him with more than 20 electrodes.

These measure everything from brain activity, heart rate, oxygen levels, air flow and even snoring.

They're lightweight, and rarely interfere with sleep. Sometimes, the technician will have to reattach an electrode if it falls off during sleep.

"I'm gonna try to count me some sheep," Wyche said as he was finished being hooked up to the electrodes. "Goodnight, Channel 7."

When the lights go out, Bodzioney then begins calibrating the electrodes. She purposefully asks Wyche to make snoring sounds, grind his teeth, blink and jerk his legs to help get accurate readings during the sleep study.

Using a special software, Bodzioney gets to know her patients very well. She can see if they're wiggling their toes, dreaming, kicking, reaching for something or even having a hotflash.

Bodzioney says sleep studies are the "best we can do outside of the home" as far as accuracy.

"If somebody is sleepy, they're going to sleep here," Bodzioney said. "They may walk in and say, 'There's no way I'm going to sleep with all that stuff on' but, 99 percent of the time, they do sleep."

And if there is a problem, she says it'll pop up at some point in the night.

Bodzioney continues watching Wyche.

"I don't see any snoring yet, but he's on his side."

But within about 20 minutes, Bodzioney notices something odd. It looks like he's starting Rapid Eye Movement, or the REM cycle.

Bodzioney says it usually takes about 90 minutes for REM to start in the average sleeper.

"Oh my gosh -- that is really early," Bodzioney said. "If that's the case, then he is sleep-deprived. That's what he's doing, really. He's already in REM and his eyes are moving like he's watching a movie."

She takes notes every half hour, even if not much is happening. Bodzioney will make special notes throughout the sleep study when she notices something of importance, like a cough, tossing and turning, snoring or if the patient wakes up.

"A few episodes of low breathing -- they're quite subtle, maybe some arousals from that," Bodzioney observed. "A few leg jerks, and also he's had some mild to moderate snores and snorts."

Seven hours and 48 minutes later...

WDBJ7 asked Wyche how he slept. Surprisingly, he said better than normal. He thinks a more comfortable bed than his own, has something to do with it.

It" was quiet, no noise, mattress was soft, pillows were nice -- it just felt like a getaway," Wyche said.

Wyche says he's going to look into getting a new mattress and pillow, to hopefully improve his sleep.

He filled out a final questionnaire, then headed home, feeling revived and more confident in his sleep.

About one week later, doctors had Wyche's results. During his sleep study, he didn't have enough episodes where he stopped breathing or had low breathing, so doctors aren't able to diagnose him with sleep apnea.

This is good news for Wyche. He'll come back in for a followup appointment and explore other ways to improve his sleep.

Bodzioney says Wyche's snoring could be an easy fix, like wearing a mouth guard, or undergoing sleep position therapy to get him off his back when he sleeps.

Wyche is still glad he went through his diagnostic sleep study. It gives him peace of mind that his sleep won't impact his job.

"If you've got a demanding job, whatever your occupation is, you need your rest," Wyche said. "Don't wait until it's too late, to address that problem, and then it might be too late, because you could hurt somebody else or kill somebody else and yourself."

Carilion doctors have plenty of tips to improve your sleep:

Avoid caffeine after lunch
Don't drink alcohol any later than four to six hours before bedtime
Do your best to relieve stress
Don't smoke -- sleep might be worse going through withdrawal, but once your body adjusts, your sleep will improve
Exercise regularly
Make sure your room isn't too bright
Use sound machine if room is too noisy
Keep temperature around 68, depending on your comfort
Avoid taking naps -- if you do nap, make them less than one hour
Don't nap after 3 p.m.
Only use your bed for sleeping, having sex or recovering from illness
Keep regular routine (eating, working out, same bedtime)
Find relaxing rituals to help you get sleepy

Here are some of the mental and physical impacts from poor sleep:

Thought process slowed down
Memory problems
Trouble learning/concentrating
Lower stress threshold
Decreased optimism/sociability
Impaired creativity or motivation
Slower reaction time
Loss of sex drive
Poor food choices
Decreased interest in leisure activities
Increased resting blood pressure