Sleep disorders can make life miserable |

Sleep disorders can make life miserable

Gregory Crofton
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Brad Taylor, a technician at Barton Sleep Studies Laboratory, wakes a groggy Conrad Brubaker at 6 a.m. to disconnect wires that collected information about his sleep.

Conrad Brubaker of Tahoma sleeps too much – about 14 hours a day. And when he gets up he doesn’t feel refreshed.

“I normally shake when I wake up,” Brubaker, 28, said. “A lot of my muscles and joints are stiff and sore.”

Within a few hours he needs to take a nap. He usually takes two a day.

“If I don’t take a nap in the afternoon I go to bed at seven or eight o’clock,” he said. “It’s gotten to the point where I’m sick of it. Sick and tired of it. Not getting nothing done, up just long enough to eat and drink, and when I can, catch a little TV.”

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On Wednesday morning, he woke up after eight hours of “rest” at the Barton Sleep Studies Laboratory. He went there to solve his sleep problem. Barton was able to accommodate him sooner, March instead of May, because the lab’s capacity recently doubled from one to two beds.

Brubaker’s sleep was videotaped so that his South Lake Tahoe neurologist, Dr. Michael Sullivan, can study his movements. His internal functions were recorded by about 20 colored wires glued to his skin.

“It collects a huge amount of data,” Sullivan said. “Electrical activity in the brain, eye movements … and looks at a person’s breathing patterns in sleep.”

Brubaker said his doctor suspects he has a sleeping disorder that causes people to act out their dreams, which can detract from any rest they get. It can be treated with sedatives, Sullivan said.

“I get hot and cold when I sleep and there is a lot of twitching around and scratching, but I don’t usually remember a whole lot,” Brubaker said. “I have fantastic dreams, sometimes nightmares.”

The REM behavior disorder that Brubaker could end up being diagnosed with is one of 78 sleeping disorders. The most common that technicians see in the lab at Barton is called apnea, a Greek word for “want of breath.” There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive.

Central apnea is when the brain fails to send the signals that keep someone breathing when they are asleep. Obstructive apnea is more common and occurs when someone is trying to breathe but can’t because their mouth or nose is blocked. Surgery or a use of an oxygen mask are often prescribed for the condition.

“If you talk to a sleep apnea patient who has been treated it’s like talking to a used car salesman,” said Roxanne Brown, the sleep lab department manager. “They say they feel 20 years younger. That they didn’t realize they didn’t have to live that way.

“One woman called me crying and said ‘You’ve given me my husband back.’ I love that we can change a patient’s life in one night and really make them feel like they can enjoy life again.”

Treatment at the Barton Sleep Studies Laboratory is a medical procedure covered by most insurance coverage and Medicare. Patients must be referred to the lab by their doctor or by the Barton Community Clinic.

Barton Memorial Hospital has operated the sleep lab since August, but it has existed for about three years. Before Barton took it over, it was operated by a large corporation that did not publicize the service.

For more information about the sleep lab, call (530) 542-3000 ext. 3060 or go to

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