The fully accredited Athens-Limestone Hospital Sleep Disorder Center has grown from a small sleep disorder laboratory in 2008 to rank as one of the nation’s best sleep facilities of 2012 by Sleep Review magazine. The sleep center was recognized for their treatment of a variety of diagnosed sleep disorders including insomnia; excessive snoring, sleep apnea and hypopnea; periodic limb movement disorder (PLM); as well as rare sleep ailments like narcolepsy and hypersomnia.
More than 100 million Americans fail to get a good night’s sleep…. And more importantly they don’t recognize that it may be something to be concerned about. Regardless of lifestyle, age or circumstances, sleep disorders are definitely a health concern. There are some 84 disorders of sleeping and waking that harm personal health and quality of life and endanger public safety by contributing to traffic and industrial accidents.
What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder which causes persons who have it to stop breathing during sleep, often hundreds of times a night. The most common type of sleep problem is obstructive sleep apnea.
What causes sleep apnea? Muscles relax more during sleep than they do during waking hours, including the muscles that are necessary for breathing. In most people, this normal process doesn’t cause problems; however, for still-unknown reasons, some people’s throat muscles relax too much. This relaxation compromises breathing and makes sleep a time of increased risk.
Why is Sleep Important?
Sleep Center director, Teresa Fields, says that there is a lot of difference between deep restorative sleep thatrefreshes your mind and body; and a fitful, interrupted sleep that leaves you fatigued the next day. “Sleep is not an elective. It is essential in order for your body to function like it was intended,” explains Walker. Health related issues attributed to poor sleep habits range from diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure, to the obvious side effects of irritability, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Some doctors believe fibromyalgia is entirely the result of sleep deprivation. Furthermore, lack of sleep is the second highest cause of traffic accidents.
People suffering from insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Night shift workers top the list. Some night workers never adjust to sleeping during the day. Our bodies are made to be awake in light and asleep in the dark so the slightest bit of daylight can prevent a third shift worker from getting their required sleep. This problem is compounded by the myth that you can “make up” sleep. There is no such thing.
Other causes of insomnia result from worry and anxiety, pain, hormonal imbalances, drug use, and gastro esophageal reflux disease known as GERD. “Insomnia is usually diagnosed in the physician’s office,” says Teresa Fields. “You answer a standard set of questions about your sleep habits like Do you snore? What time do you go to bed? What time do you get up? How long does it take you to fall asleep? That is followed by the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to determine their average level of sleepiness during the daytime.” On a scale of zero if you never doze to three if there is a high chance of dozing or sleeping during the day, if your total score is above 10, you probably have a sleep disorder.
Fields says 90% of the problems they treat at the Sleep Center are sleep apnea or hypopnea. Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep, shutting off airflow; or hypopnea, a partial blockage of the airflow, both causing the patient to stop breathing. “Some sufferers stop breathing hundreds of times during the night, some lasting up to 190 seconds at a time. Lack of oxygen hundreds of times during a single night, every night for many years damages your body,” says Fields.
There are four stages of normal sleep. Sleep is very light during Stage 1 and most people awakened in this stage will deny they were asleep. Unininterrupted Stage 2 sleep lasts about 20 minutes, marked by a drop in body temperature and a slowing of the heart rate. Stage 3 marks a transition between light sleep and very deep sleep. The last level, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is where dreams occur. “In REM, your body is paralyzed but your mind is active. This is where, if uninterrupted, you get deep restorative sleep that refreshes your mind and body,” Fields says. “People with sleep disorders either never reach REM, or can’t remain in this stage. The apnea causes them to gasp for air, which wakes them up; or they drift into stage two or three and have a leg jerk (PLM), which wakes them up. They start all over again at stage one, on and off throughout the night, never getting past stage two or three sleep.”
The Sleep Center has effective treatment for most sleep disorders, and many do not involve medication,” Fields says. Hooked up to a monitor that measures brain waves, airflow, eye movement, heart rate, and oxygen saturation, sleep center technicians watch and read computer onscreen graphs, noting patterns such as PLMs, apneas, and even seizures. “When the body is deeply relaxed, the muscles in your throat close up, shutting off or blocking airflow. Weight plays a role in both snoring and apneas but thin people have them too, so weight loss isn’t foolproof,” Fields says. “We don’t know what causes leg jerks but when we stop the apnea, they usually disappear too.” The most successful treatment for sleep apnea is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask that blows positive air pressure into your air passage to keep it open. The CPAP comes in several styles and becomes a patient’s best friend. “Most people who experience good sound sleep after using a CPAP will not sleep without it!” Fields says.
Al Scherff, M.D.
Pulmonology / Sleep Medicine
Contact Info: Office: 256-771-7575 Fax: 256-771-1454
Facility/Office: North Alabama Pulmonary & Sleep Consultants 902 West Hobbs Street Athens, AL 35611
Education: University of South Alabama College of Medicine Mobile, AL
Residency: Memorial Medical Center Savannah, GA
Certification: The Am. Board of Internal Medicine (Pulmonary Disease) The American Board of Sleep Medicine Appointed Medical Staff: 08/13/96
Ravali Tarigopula (Tari), M.D.
Pulmonology / Sleep Medicine
Contact Info: Office: 256-233-9292
Biography Dr. Tarigopula (Dr. Tari) completed her Medical Education in India prior to relocating to USA. While residing in Seattle, WA, she actively volunteered and participated in the research activities at Highline Medical Center, Burien, WA and Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. These research activities coupled with her personal experiences can be attributed to her developing a passion for Pulmonary and Sleep Disorders. She pursued Internal Medicine Residency at Monmouth Medical Center, Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine Fellowship at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Drexel University College of Medicine.
Her dedication for improving the medical learning and facilities for her colleagues, medical students and patients motivated her to be closely involved in administrative activities throughout her education. She was a Chief Resident during her third year of Internal Medicine Residency, a Chief Fellow during her Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Fellowship and Sleep Medicine Fellowship. During her tenure as Chief Resident and Chief Fellow, she was involved in implementing the latest guidelines for managing Sepsis in the ICU, implemented the protocol for managing Hypothermia, and worked extensively to evaluate the utility of stop bang questionnaire in Bariatric Surgery patients. She continues to share passion for research in Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine and continually strives to learn and discuss latest trends and changes in the management of Critical Care patients. Her work is rewarded through positive patient outcomes and recognition by her colleagues.
During her free time, Dr. Tari enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 kids. She enjoys riding bicycle and playing with her 3 year old daughter. She is particularly fond of long drives. She drove from Seattle, WA to Long Branch, NJ and wishes to do one from Florida to California in the near future.
Eduardo Bazan-Lavanda, MD
Contact Info: Office: 256-233-9292
Facility/Office: Athens-Limestone Hospital 700 W. Market Street Athens, AL 35611
Education: 4/1996 – 1/2003: Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Peru Degree: MD in 5/2003
Residency: 7/2010 – 6/2013: Categorical position at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan in Internal Medicine residency program
7/2009 – 6/2010: Internship at Metropolitan Hospital Center, New York as PGY-1 in Internal Medicine residency program.
Fellowship: 7/2013 – 7/2014: Sleep Medicine at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago.
More Information and Contact Form
Possible Indicators of a Sleep Disorder
- Loud snoring(sometimes associated with gasping and choking)
- Excessive daytime sleepinessHypertension (40% of the patients at time of evaluation have high blood pressure)
- Daytime fatigue
- Recent weight gain
- Unusual body movements during sleep, such as wildly kicking arms and legs
- Morning headaches
- Feeling as if you are in a fog
- Personality changes such as depression, irritability and anxiety
- Loss of interest in sex
How is a sleep study conducted? After sharing your medical history and possibly discussions with your bed partner or other household members, you will be asked to spend a single night in one of our comfortable roomy bedroom labs. Electrodes are attached to your scalp and skin to continuously monitor sleep stages, respiration, leg movements and blood oxygen levels. The rooms are designed to make your stay as comfortable as possible. If you suffer from extreme sleepiness during the day, a daytime test designed to detect the presence of narcolepsy may be conducted.
Will my insurance cover a sleep study? Most private insurance companies and Medicare cover a sleep study. We will be happy to assist you in contacting your insurance company in advance to determine if the tests will be covered.
How do I find out if I need a sleep study? To determine if you are a candidate for a sleep apnea study, you may contact the Athens-Limestone Sleep Disorders Center.
Please click on the link below and print the Medical/Sleep History Questionnaire. Please bring the completed questionnaire to your scheduled appointment.
Monday: 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Tuesday: 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Wednesday: 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Thursday: 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Friday: 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM
700 West Market Street
Athens, Alabama 35611
Phone : 256-771-REST(7378)
Please contact us with any questions or concerns. To make an appointment please call our office.