Start the new year with better sleep habits

Ventrapragada Mohan, MD

One of the resolutions that many area residents can make for  themselves is to attain better sleep. The quality and quantity of sleep can affect a person’s entire day. There are lifestyle changes that can be made to get more sleep, however, there are also certain sleep conditions that may need the diagnosis of a medical professional. 

Life is full of distractions, many of which get in the way of getting enough rest according to Ventrapragada Mohan, MD,  a pulmonologist with HSHS Medical Group. “One major problem for society is not getting enough sleep. We have a lot of distractions, such as television as well as smart devices and we tend not to sleep enough. The current recommendation for adults is at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and children need more than eight hours. There is a movement involving the American Association of Sleep Medicine and others to change school starting times later so children can get the sleep needed. That’s a major challenge because a lot of kids are sleepy in the morning at school because they aren’t getting enough sleep,” he explained. 

Mohan even referenced the iPhone’s Night Shift mode, which turns the light from a blue tint to a warmer, almost reddish hue. “The blue light has a shorter wavelength and it resets the brain clock,” he said. 

Looking at what can be done to try to improve sleep, he added “There’s a whole host of things that a person can do to improve their sleep, which includes going to bed at a set time, waking up at a set time and trying to get seven to eight hours of sleep.”

Dr. Mohan explained that everyone has a biological clock in their brain that tells them when they need to be sleeping.. The brain might not be sending the right signals for breathing, and that’s where the HSHS Sleep Disorders Center Southern Illinois comes in. 

The newly improved, state of the art sleep lab is located in the heart of O’Fallon, IL, in a campus across the street from HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. The sleep lab started in 1989 and was the first in the area. . Dr. Mohan has been part of it since the beginning.

“Sleep labs really took off in the 1970s and 1980s, when we realized that a lot of people had sleep problems that were potentially treatable. What we have here is a fully accredited sleep lab, and we can do just about everything that needs to be done,” he said. Dr. Mohan spoke about when it might be time to visit the center for a study for one of many sleep conditions, including narcolepsy, parasomnias or sleep apnea.

There are two types of sleep studies. One can be done at home, which solely diagnoses sleep apnea, and the other is performed in the lab. The lab makes every effort to be a welcoming and relaxing place for all patients, at all hours of the day. While sleep studies are usually performed at night, accommodations are made for those that work night shifts and normally sleep during the daytime hours. The lab also performs nap studies. 

“We usually have the patient show up at their normal bedtime. Patients will find a comforting environment that is  quiet and dark. We have curtains that help keep it dark for those who do the study during the daytime. We also provide standard beds that most people use in their homes, as well as some special equipment for monitoring the patient. We have several devices that we put on the body to find out how well the air is going into the lungs. If there’s any blockage, what happens to the heart rate will also happen to the oxygen. Additionally, we have monitors on the head that tell us when the patient falls asleep and how frequently they’re waking up. There’s about six to eight parameters that are usually measured,” Dr. Mohan explained. 

The results of the study can help diagnose sleep apnea, which comes with increased risks of cardiac complications, strokes and more. Sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing during sleep, whether from an obstruction, or a lack of signal from the central nervous system. “Obstructive means that the person is trying to breathe, but the airway in the back of the throat is collapsed and is preventing the air from getting into the lungs,” Dr. Mohan said. 

There can be numerous symptoms of sleep apnea, including snoring or stopping breathing. “By far, the most common one is when a person wakes up from sleep and they feel tired, like they haven’t slept,” he said. 

Treatment of sleep apnea can involve lifestyle changes if a patient is overweight, devices to stretch the jaw, or a possible surgery. Mohan said that the current “gold standard” for sleep apnea treatment is the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines. “Think of your throat like a pipe that’s collapsing. If you create positive pressure inside the pipe, it doesn’t collapse. The positive pressure is generated by the device pushing air, and the masks transmit the air from the CPAP to the back of the throat,” said Dr. Mohan.

Treating sleep apnea is also necessary before treating numerous linked cardiac conditions, such as hypertension. 

Let the sleep lab help ring in the new year by bringing better sleep, better health and better quality of life. For more information, call (618) 234-2120, ext. 11534, or visit