Poor sleep or sleep deprivation can weaken the body’s immune system, leaving people susceptible to infection, impaired quality of life and mental health issues. Many sleep disorders can be traced to lifestyle such as poor sleep hygiene, shift work and jet lag, but some sleep disorders, like sleep apnea and narcolepsy, require accurate diagnosis and treatment.
The UBC Hospital Sleep Disorders Program is a specialized multi-disciplinary team comprised of psychiatrists, respirologists, a neurologist, sleep technologists, as well as coordinators and administrative support staff. The program was established in 1981 and is about to undergo its largest expansion in 35 years.
The new expanded sleep disorders clinic and lab will grow from six to nine beds and the dual-purpose space will be better equipped to operate 24/7. The expansion is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2017. It was made possible through donations to the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.
The new space will be innovatively designed. According to Tracey Taulu, Operations Director UBC Hospital, the expanded program has the ability to shift from a hospital clinic during the day to a warm and non-clinical atmosphere as a sleep lab during the night. The space will also be fully upgraded in soundproofing and ventilation which will allow for a better overall sleep-study environment for the clients.
Many of us will look to the yearly time change to “catch up” on our sleep. But our body clocks are far too complex to be so easily reset. Dr. Fleetham says we operate on a 24-hour clock. Any change in the body’s routine can cause fatigue and sleepiness. We know increased fatigue is often a factor in motor vehicle accidents and workplace accidents. According to Dr. Fleetham, the three ingredients of a long, healthy life are diet, exercise and sleep. “We tend to focus on diet and exercise, but ignore sleep, which is a mistake, given that 40 per cent of Canadians will suffer from some form of a sleep disorder in their lifetime, he says.