In so many ways, 2020 will be remembered as a year of anxiety.
A pervasive pandemic, interrupted schooling, a contentious presidential election and any number of other elements have left many people stressed.
The unease has taken a toll on the quality of our sleep, according to Dr. Kyle Davis, a licensed clinical psychologist with St. Luke’s.
“COVID and other things going on in general right now are making people sleep worse,” said Dr. Davis, who specializes in behavioral sleep medicine, including cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. “People are experiencing more stress and they’re seeing a change in their day-to-day routines.”
One of the key areas that Dr. Davis has been targeting is people’s schedules, as he has seen more people going to bed later, unable to stay asleep or unable to fall asleep.
“Daily routines have changed, and from a sleep perspective, sleep can get more deregulated when schedules are interrupted,” he said. “More people are working from home, so they don’t get up as early and their patterns get looser.”
The same situation is carrying over to kids and teens whose school patterns have been altered.
“Changes in school schedules can be responsible for more problems with sleep, not to mention the use of electronics around bedtime,” Dr. Davis said. “Avoiding blue light an hour or two before bedtime is a good idea, but I would say even more important than that is what they’re doing with their electronic devices.
“If a teenager is on Snapchat and talking to their friends in the middle of the night, that’s really stimulating. So, it’s not the blue light as much as what they’re doing on their phones. If they were doing their homework on their phones that would be way more likely to put them to sleep than talking to their friends.”
Dr. Davis said he encourages people to seek help or learn about healthy sleep habits at St. Luke’s Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, which opened in the fall of 2019 at the South Meridian YMCA.
Its goal, as the name implies, is to promote healthy lifestyles. The clinic offers many services, including supervised exercise therapy, tobacco treatment, nutrition education and classes on insomnia and healthy sleeping practices.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Davis moved his classes to an online platform earlier this year.
“Lifestyle Medicine has kind of pivoted toward offering more virtual lifestyle classes,” Dr. Davis said. “The great thing about teaching online is it doesn’t really matter if I’m teaching five people or if I’m teaching 100. I’d rather have more people online so I help people more efficiently.”
Dr. Davis’ classes address any number of other sleep issues, including what causes insomnia, how to teach your brain to connect bed and sleep and tips for healthy sleep hygiene, including:
Dr. Davis said he has found when people hear about the relatively inexpensive option of his virtual classes (they cost $10 apiece), they are curious about some of their own sleep patterns and issues.
“Everybody sleeps, right? So, it’s usually something that people care about,” Dr. Davis said. “Everyone wants to sleep well and feel rested, so it’s an interesting topic.”
Dr. Davis will be conducting regular online meetings each month.
St. Luke’s continued to show it is on the cutting edge of research and treatment as St. Luke’s Boise implanted its first phrenic nerve stimulator (Remede) to treat central sleep apnea on Oct. 15.
Central sleep apnea (CSA) is characterized by repeated stopping and starting of breathing during a person’s sleep cycle.
CSA is more common among people who have congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation, and it is diagnosed through a sleep study. St. Luke’s Sleep Medicine Institute has a sleep lab and diagnoses multiple sleep disorders in addition to CSA.
The new treatment requires a unique collaboration between pulmonary providers, electrophysiology providers and congestive heart failure providers to ensure that patients are appropriately screened for possible CSA.
The new system, which is implanted by a cardiologist during a minimally invasive procedure, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in late 2017. It includes a small pacemaker-like device that is implanted under the skin in the upper part of the chest area.
It includes two thin wires, one that delivers the stimulation to the phrenic nerve to tell the diaphragm to breathe and another that senses when the patient breathes. The patient is lightly sedated during the procedure and most patients go home after a one-night stay in the hospital.
About six weeks after the procedure, the patient returns for a follow-up appointment with a sleep medicine physician to activate the system. Once fully optimized, the system will restore sleep throughout the night by monitoring and stabilizing the patient’s breathing pattern.
The procedure aims to increase the percentage of REM sleep and give patients a better quality of life.
“This is a unique therapy that is available for patients with central sleep apnea who didn’t really have any therapeutic options prior to Remede,” said Tom Watters, St. Luke’s catheterization lab manager. “The device has been proven to drastically improve quality of life in these types of patients.”
More on implantable devices for sleep apnea.
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.