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Avera Sacred Heart Sleep Disorders Lab

The Sleep Diagnostics Laboratory at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital is a division of the Cardiopulmonary Department. The laboratory employs specially trained sleep professionals who use state of the art equipment to diagnose and treat sleep disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions  

What is a sleep disorder?

A sleep disorder is a physical or psychological condition that disturbs sleep and causes abnormal sleepiness during the day. People who have sleep disorders may experience fatigue, irritability, depression, reduced concentration, more frequent illnesses, lost productivity and motor vehicle accidents. The most common sleep disorders include Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Narcolepsy, Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMS) and REM Behavior Disorder (RBD).

The Sleep Diagnostics Laboratory at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating each of the sleep disorders listed above. Laboratory professionals are also trained to recognize Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and Bruxism (teeth grinding).

I think I have a sleep disorder. What should I do now?

If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder and it’s negatively affecting your quality of life, make an appointment with one of Yankton region’s pulmonologists or ENT physicians. Based on face-to-face evaluation and screening tools, they may order a sleep study in the Sleep Laboratory.

The results of the sleep study are interpreted by by either Dr. Lori Hansen or Dr. Michael Pietila and appropriate treatment is recommended. Both Drs. Hansen and Pietila are pulmonologists with special training in sleep medicine and medical directors at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital.

What should I expect on the night of my sleep study?

The sleep laboratory is located at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital on the 5th Floor of the Benedictine Center. Patients will be asked to arrive at the Sleep Lab sometime between 7 and 9 p.m. A sleep technologist greets patients and fully explain the procedure before the study begins.

Patients stay overnight in the Sleep Lab in a room similar to a motel room, each room has a private bathroom and shower. Patients wear their own pajamas and may bring their own pillows or special blankets from home. Prior to going to bed, a sleep technologist will attach several sensors to your head, chest and legs to monitor the many functions that occur during sleep. The sleep technologist stays in an adjacent room and is available throughout the night for your comfort.

The study will be completed between 6 and 7 a.m. The results are then analyzed and sent to the physician who ordered the study. A few days later, the physician will have a follow-up appointment to discuss the results of your sleep study.

Most patients go straight to work after their sleep study and report feeling rested.

Common Sleep Disorders

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by breathing pauses during sleep. Each episode, called an apnea, lasts at least 10 seconds. These breathing pauses occur repeatedly during sleep and often cause awakenings and decreased oxygen levels. Sleep Apnea may also be associated with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Sleep apnea is most often caused by a physical block (obstruction) to the upper airway, which occurs when muscles relax during sleep. Excess fat tissue, loss of muscle tone or structural abnormalities contribute to the upper airway obstruction and may also account for snoring. Snoring is often associated with sleep apnea, although not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Other signs of sleep apnea include excessive daytime sleepiness, gasping/choking during sleep, restless sleep and morning headaches.

Sleep apnea may be successfully treated with positive airway pressure devices, the most common being CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). With CPAP, a person wears a nasal (or nasal-oral) mask to bed. The mask is connected by tubing to a small machine that sits on an individual’s nightstand. The machine quietly delivers positive air pressure to the upper airway, which prevents airway collapse and breathing pauses.


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes uncontrollable levels of daytime sleepiness that result in "sleep attacks" during inappropriate times of the day. People with narcolepsy may also experience cataplexy, which is characterized by sudden muscular weakness brought on by strong emotions.

Narcolepsy may be diagnosed in the sleep laboratory by a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MLST), in which a person takes a series of 20 minutes naps throughout the day. Once diagnosed, narcolepsy is most commonly treated with medications designed to stimulate the central nervous system. It is also controlled with lifestyle changes and planned short naps during the day.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

This disorder is characterized by excessive arm and leg movement (or jerks) during sleep. The excessive movement can disrupt sleep and the person feels tired in the morning and throughout the day. Medication may help treat this disorder.

REM Behavior Disorder (RBD)

This disorder is characterized by abnormal behavior during dream sleep, and an individual with RBD may appear to be acting out a dream. These behaviors can be violent in nature and in some cases will result in injury to either the patient or their bed partner. Once diagnosed, RBD may be treated with medication.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Although this disorder occurs during wakefulness, it may disrupt sleep onset. People with RLS have crawling and tingling sensations in their legs. These feelings may be most intense when sitting or lying down, and relief comes from moving the legs. Because of leg movement, some individuals with RLS have difficulty falling asleep. Medication may help treat this disorder.


Bruxism, or teeth grinding, may also be identified during a sleep study. A mouth guard may be recommended for home use.

A Note on Insomnia

Insomnia is difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep. Insomnia is not a stand-alone diagnosis or disease, but rather, a symptom of many sleep and psychological disorders. Often times, insomnia is treated when an underlying sleep disorder is diagnosed and treated.

Contact Us

For more information, call the Avera Sacred Heart Sleep Diagnostics Lab at 605-668-8773.