Good quality of sleep is essential for optimal daily functioning. Many people suffer from sleep difficulties associated with either lifestyle choices or illness. Sleep problems can affect quality of life and can pose a serious threat to health if left untreated.
There are many different types of sleep disorders. Some of the more common disorders include insomnia, circadian disorders, parasomnia, narcolepsy, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, circadian disorder, jet lag, sleep breathing disorders such as sleep apnoea (obstructive or central apnoea) and hypoventilation.
Doctors can usually treat most sleep disorders effectively once they are correctly diagnosed.
In light of this, we are pleased to announce the establishment of our sleep laboratory, which is designed to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of all sleep disorders.
Sleep medicine has become an essential specialty service. Over the past 25 years, this field has expanded considerably around the world to meet an increasingly high demand for diagnosing and treating different sleep disorders.
Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the sleep lab’s mission is to focus on the quality of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, ensuring the patients’ care and satisfaction are top priorities.
Dr Ridwana Timol, neuropsychologist
Consultant in Sleep Medicine & Neurocognitive Psychology, Wellkin Hospital
Work experience in sleep medicine:
- 2012 to 2013: Head of sleep research, UCT Sleep Sciences-SSEM Thembu Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town
- 2007 to 2011: Intern, Sleep Disorder Centre, Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital, Cape Town.
Ph.D. in Psychological Research, with specialisation in Neuropsychology (subcategories: Sleep Medicine, Memory and Stress), member of Applied Cognitive Science and Experimental Neuropsychology team (ACSENT) laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town.
Firstly, the sleep physician will determine if you have health problems that possibly relate to poor sleep patterns and then arrange a sleep study if required.
This could be in the form of a polysomnography in the sleep lab overnight, a short sleep study or a respiratory polygraphy, either in the ambulatory or in the sleep lab.
Then there will be a debriefing session with the sleep physician, where the analysis of testing is explained, the diagnosis is provided and a treatment plan discussed. We will provide a quick follow-up with advice about the most appropriate form of treatment.
Some information about sleep tests
The respiratory polygraphy
This study records your breathing rate and airflow, heart rate and oxygen levels and is performed in the home. The doctor or technician will train you in using the equipment and will not be present overnight during the study.
This study is performed overnight in the sleep laboratory (a hospital private room). Several body functions are measured during sleep including: brain activity, breathing, heart rate, body movement, and eye movement. The medical team is present and observing during this study.
Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT): This study is conducted to determine how sleepy you are during the day. The MSLT is used most often to diagnose narcolepsy (inability to stay awake during the day) and see what might be causing excessive daytime sleepiness.
Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT): This study is done to see how well you can remain awake when you are in a situation that encourages you to feel sleepy.
Some symptoms of sleep disorders
It can be normal to have trouble sleeping from time to time, but if you are having trouble sleeping most nights, you may have a sleep problem.
- Most common symptoms of sleep disorders:
- Snoring loudly during sleep
- Sleeping in a fitful or restless manner
- Feeling very sleepy during the day
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Frequently awaking at night and/or early in the morning
- Difficulty waking up in morning
If you have one or more of these signs, you may have a sleep problem.
An appointment with a sleep specialist is strongly advised.