A group of military leaders from the Pikes Peak region gathered at Fort Carson this week to celebrate the Pentagon's latest combat tool - sleep.
With frequent deployments to the Middle East, the military has found that 40 winks are a powerful tool in combat. But too many troops aren't getting enough shut-eye. That's where the new sleep clinic at Evans Army Community Hospital comes in. The facility, which will have 10 beds, is a joint effort between the Army and the Air Force to attack the problems that are keeping troops up at night.
"It consolidates all our sleep medicine services for all the military," said Cmdr. Renee Pazdan, a Public Health Service neurologist who helped spearhead the move to the new facility.
The sleep clinic consists of hospital rooms and computer technology. Patients arrive at night and bed down while they are wired to sensors that measure everything from brain waves to respiration and leg movements.
Air Force Maj. Henry Scheuller, a doctor specializing in sleep, said recordings of the patient's sleep are analyzed to diagnose ailments including sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Sleep apnea, when airways are closed off in sleep patients causing them to struggle for oxygen, is an especially dangerous problem.
Scheuller said it causes patients to never get proper sleep and can lead to heart attacks and other symptoms. It also causes victims to be tired all the time - a dangerous condition on the battlefield where alertness equals safety
"It can kill you in the short term and it can kill you in the long term," he said.
The clinic is one piece of a growing effort between the Pikes Peak region's five military bases to coordinate their health care efforts. Fort Carson is also home to a brain injury clinic that cares for the region's troops and handles in-patient services from surgery to child birth for all local troops. Day surgery and out-patient services are delivered at the Air Force Academy. A joint military clinic off Austin Bluffs Parkway in central Colorado Springs specializes in caring for military families.
Air Force Academy Col. Leigh Swanson oversees the regional cooperation.
"We're increasing the efficiency of health care," she said.
Evans commander Col. Patrick Garman, said adding one of the largest sleep clinics in the Defense Department further cements the partnership and will help soldiers overseas.
"Sleep is a big part of readiness," he said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240