Island Sleep Lab

Sleep is critical to total health and wellness and apnea can be resolved through treatment

How did you sleep last night? Before you answer “On my back” or “Curled up in my 1,200 threadcount Egyptian cotton sheets,” you may want to give your answer deeper thought. Believe it or not, it could save your life.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 70 million people in the United States are affected by a sleep problem – more than 40 million of whom suffer from a chronic condition.

Fortunately, more and more people are waking up to the fact that sleep disorders can be serious, and potentially lethal, conditions. “Sleep medicine is new to this country,” said Susan Fennell, founder of Island Sleep Lab, an independent diagnostic clinic for sleep disorders on Hilton Head Island. “People are just now recognizing the importance of sleep.”

The lab, which opened in 2005 at LifeSpan Health Center, 58 Shelter Cove Lane, Suite E, specializes in breathing disorders that cause sleep disturbances – most commonly, sleep apnea.

The disorder is characterized by brief interruptions of sleep when air does not flow adequately in and out of a person’s mouth (obstructive sleep apnea) or when the brain does not send the appropriate signals to breathing muscles to initiate respirations (central sleep apnea). If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause depression, irritability, memory problems, sexual dysfunction and daytime fatigue. It can also triple a person’s chance of heart attack, quadruple their chance of stroke and even cause sudden death, according to Wendy Campbell, Island Sleep Lab’s clinical director.

The key is diagnosis. And that’s where Island Sleep Lab comes in. Sleep specialists at the lab conduct regular sleep studies for patients suspected of having the sleep disorders. A typical study consists of a six- to eight-hour, all-night stay in the sleep laboratory, during which technicians monitor 16 different measurements of brain or body functions and collect patient data at 30-second intervals.

Island Sleep LabThe lengthy, but comprehensive, sleep report is then reviewed by lab specialists and sent to the patient’s referring physician for diagnosis.

Island Sleep Lab is an independent facility and has the freedom to work with the patient’s doctor of choice. “That makes our services appealing to both doctors and patients,” Fennell said. The lab also works with Medicare and Volunteers in Medicine. And, it now offers pediatric treatment for patients five years old and older.

According to Island Sleep Lab specialists, a recent development in pediatric treatment is the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea for children whose sleep had been disrupted by a need for their tonsils to be taken out. Interestingly, many of these patients have also been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Many children have seen a decline in their symptoms after tonsil removal and return to a sufficient sleep regimen.

Your body dictates its daily actions to itself during the evening. So, sufferers of sleep disorders are in a constant cycle of recovery, or “sleep debt,” during the day, Campbell said.

So, how is a patient’s sleep disorder treated? The ideal treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), which entails the use of a mask worn over the nose during sleep while pressure from an air blower forces air through the nasal passages. A great advantage of sleep apnea treatment is that patients can experience improvements relatively quickly, according to Fennell.

And, at Island Sleep Lab, patients have access to diagnostic testing, treatment and follow-up programs, such as support groups – all under one roof. To make an appointment at the Island Sleep Lab or for more information, call (843) 842-9919.

Give It a Rest

Here are a few simple tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. and do not consumer alcohol or food within two hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t exercise before going to bed.
  • Ensure that you have a good sleep environment that is comfortable and has limited distractions, such as television or pets.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime. Find additional helpful tips at: