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The Power of a Good Night's Sleep

The Power of a Good Night's Sleep

The Power of a Good Night's Sleep

The Power of a Good Night's Sleep: KCC's Dr. Matthew Ebben shares insights on the importance of sleep


The Power of a Good Night's Sleep:
KCC's Dr. Matthew Ebben shares
insights on the importance of sleep

If you’re like many people, “springing forward” last Sunday may have left you feeling a little sluggish this week. Whether we’re gaining an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day during daylight-saving time or more daylight during winter mornings in the fall, people become aware of changes in their sleep patterns each time we change our clocks.

While many unknowns exist about why sleep is essential, some benefits are clear. “Sleep helps you feel alert and refreshed during the day,” offered Dr. Matthew Ebben, an associate professor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and director of Kingsborough Community College’s polysomnographic technology program. “If you don't sleep well at night, you're tired during the day; you're more prone to accidents and making mistakes. Sleep loss has also been linked to a higher risk of poor memory performance, obesity, mental health issues, and heart disease.” Early studies show that complete sleep deprivation over a long period can result in death. “Normal folks don't experience that sort of thing because when you become sleep deprived, your body pushes you into sleep,” he added.

Sleep helps reboot the brain, flushing out toxins that build up during waking hours. “Certain sleep stages, like slow-wave sleep, clear beta-amyloid proteins. This is important because if you don't clear these proteins out of your brain, they can lead to terrible conditions like Alzheimer's disease.” Ebben noted that people with occasional sleep problems, like insomnia, will still get slow-wave and REM sleep once they fall asleep. “Every person has a certain sleep need. Generally, when you’re sleeping enough at night, you’re able to sleep through the night and wake up feeling refreshed,” he said.

What happens if you’re chronically unable to fall asleep or feel unrefreshed after a full night’s sleep? The first step is to consult your internist or general practitioner, who can help pinpoint a particular psychological or medical issue for treatment.

“There are certain medical issues that are responsible for difficulty sleeping or too much sleep and feeling non-refreshed, like thyroid disorders. It could also be related to other issues like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, or REM sleep behavior disorder, where the person is acting out dreams during the night. You want to be screened and treated for these kinds of things first. If your doctor thinks it appropriate, they might refer you to an accredited sleep center for a sleep study.”

Also known as polysomnography, sleep studies are conducted in a controlled environment to monitor and record various biological signals, like brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, and breathing patterns, while you sleep. The data collected during a sleep study can help diagnose sleep disorders and determine the underlying causes.

In general, there are two types of sleep studies: Home tests and in-lab studies. Home tests are used primarily to test for sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. However, they don’t typically record sleep. An in-lab study tests for sleep apnea and more.

The gold standard sleep study is a polysomnogram “You’ll go to the laboratory in the evening, put your pajamas on, and be connected to a number of gadgets by a polysomnographic (or sleep) technologist before sleeping through the night.” The sleep technologist applies sensors to the head and body with adhesive. Wires connect the sensors to a computer with enough slack so the client can move during sleep. A clip is placed on a finger or earlobe to monitor blood oxygen levels. Elastic belts might also be wrapped around the chest and abdomen to measure breathing. While you sleep, the sleep technologist monitors the computer in a room nearby, recording your brain activity and other information from your body to get a detailed picture of your sleep pattern. The report is then sent to your doctor to determine treatment.

Kingsborough Community College is one of only two programs in New York state offering a license-eligible associate degree to train polysomnographic technologists. Those who complete the program are eligible to take the registered polysomnographic technologist (RPSGT) exam, where they can earn an unrestricted license to practice in New York State.

As for tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, Ebben said the key is to be consistent. “Try to go to sleep and wake up at around the same time, weekends and weekdays. You can develop insomnia by spending more time in bed than you actually sleep.” He also suggests checking your expectation: “Some people think they should sleep 10 hours a night but really only need seven. Your goal is to wake up refreshed and ready to start the day.”

For more information about Kingsborough’s polysomnographic program, visit


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