While he was sleeping

Thursday, August 26, 2010

World Wide Web - Providers and other sleep advocates got a sneak peek at just what patients go through before they come in for a CPAP, thanks to what is believed to be the first-ever online sleep study in July.

Called "Sleep Up," the event was organized by Seattle-based Sleep Medicine Associates to educate the public about sleep disorders and encourage them to seek help.

The patient: Paul Balcerak, a self-proclaimed "social media" fan.

"I think (social media) has the power to get the word out," he told viewers over a cup of coffee. "This is a serious problem and I am willing to be the guinea pig."

The 12-hour event kicked off with a webcast during which a sleep physician talked with Balcerak and his wife about what brought Balcerak into the lab (he snores, says his wife). Also discussed: general sleep issues.

"I thought the conversation they were having about sleep hygiene was especially important," said Ed Grandi, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association, who tuned in at various points during the event. "They spoke in layman's terms that mere mortals can understand."

Infrared technology allowed viewers to observe Balcerak as he slept. During that time, doctors monitored and discussed his brain activity. Viewers were invited to post questions about sleep orders via twitter or directly to Sleep Medicine Associates' website. About 8,500 viewers tuned in live and 3,209 comments were sent in.

It took Balcerak about 11 minutes to fall asleep and his total sleep time was about 5.2 hours.

"It wasn't the best night's sleep I ever had, but I feel OK," Balcerak said when he woke up.

For the record, he doesn't have sleep apnea.

"You slept so well, compared to what I expected," his physician told him. "A lot of people are anxious about sleep studies. I think this was reassuring for someone on the street."

That's the best he could have hoped for, Balcerak said.

"I hope that it opens people up (to sleep studies)," he said. "It's not like I cured cancer last night, but (maybe I helped) with every day problems."