Radio host praises sleep center for his renewed energy
Rise and shine” is more than just a catch phrase for Bob Bell. The morning radio show host has to be wide awake and on the air at 6 a.m. every weekday, well informed about the day’s events and fully prepared to discuss them with listeners.
Bell has a fun and gregarious personality, and that personality shines on Joy620 AM as he interviews guests and fields phone calls from listeners. But there was a time not too long ago when Bell was struggling to keep up with the early hours. Listeners never saw what was happening to him off the air after the caffeine from the early morning coffee had worn off, and after the microphone had been silenced for the day.
“I would come home in the afternoon and I would hit a wall,” Bell says. Even after a daily nap, he could only muster enough energy to do the bare minimum of work, and there was little energy left after that for anything else.
Anyone who’s worked odd hours on less than eight hours of sleep knows that it’s common to catch a nap once in a while to try and make up for lost time. The nap helps re-energize the mind and body for the rest of the day’s demands.
But Bell had reached a point where there was no power in the power nap. Even after resting, he was sluggish. “I’m usually a very cheery kind of person,” Bell says. “I wasn’t being very cheery, and I didn’t know why.”
He may not have known why at the time, but he does now. “I wasn’t sleeping,” Bell says.
It was Bell’s wife, Meg, who found the key to unlock the mystery. Frequently awake because of Bell’s snoring, she noticed that sometimes he would stop breathing during the night. She encouraged him to see his doctor.
Bell’s physician recommended Fort Sanders Sleep Disorder Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. There, Bell could be monitored during sleep to see if Meg’s observations were correct, and just how serious the problem might be.
“My wife says I sounded like a three-year-old kid complaining,” Bell laughs. “I didn’t want to go.”
So it was with some trepidation that he went to the Center in December, and monitoring devices were put in place. Bell was left in a room with one simple task to accomplish – sleep.
It was easier than he expected it to be. “They are extremely professional in what they do,” Bell says. “They’re very careful to tell you exactly what’s going to happen, and what’s going to go on with the monitor and your heart rate and your breathing.”
Being set at ease from the time he arrived helped him settle in and get comfortable enough to doze off.
“You get a little intimidated when you first put all that stuff on,” Bell says, “but you get settled down in bed, you get tired and you do go to sleep.” He says the surroundings helped.
“It’s not like it’s some antiseptic hospital room,” Bell says. “You’re in a very comfortable bed, you have a TV, there was a shower there, full bathroom facilities – everything’s there to make you feel at home.”
Sleep Center staff even made sure he was awake in time to shower and get ready to go to work the next morning. Bell was impressed by the facilities and staff, and then he was stunned by the results that came from his stay there.
“Are you ready for this?” Bell asks. “The doctor there sat down with me, and he told me I ceased to breathe an average of 89 times an hour.”
Bell had been missing the restorative sleep phase known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement). It was affecting every part of his life, from his energy level to his mood to his weight. Suddenly everything made sense.
The diagnosis was sleep apnea, and Bell was prescribed a CPAP to help him breathe at night. He wasn’t excited about that, quip-ping, “Nothin’ says sexy like a CPAP,” but his mother-in-law recommended it, having had her own sleep success with one.
As word got out about Bell’s apnea, he started hearing from friends and family members who were successfully sleeping with a CPAP. He decided to give it a try.
“The first night I said, ‘I’m not going to be able to sleep with this,’” Bell recalls. “As I was thinking that and closing my eyes, I drifted off and I got one of the most refreshing nights of sleep I’d had in years.”
Bell says the CPAP has made a night-and-day difference in his life. “My son came home from college and he could tell I have more energy,” Bell says. “He said, ‘Usually when I come home around noon you’re asleep, and now you don’t even think about sitting down till three or four o’clock in the afternoon.’”
Bell says when he returned to the Sleep Center for a retest with the CPAP, he was happy to see the improvement on paper. Now that he understands how important a good night’s sleep is to overall health and wellbeing, he’s never going back to the sleepless nights he had before.
“You know, if I’m eating right and exercising and trying to lose weight, I am hindering myself if I’m not getting enough sleep,” he says.
Bell can’t help laughing about the first time he truly understood the difference a good night’s sleep has made in his life. On Christmas Eve, he remembers deciding to take a nap at the office before going to church.
“My work was done, I sat down in my chair,” Bell says. “But I didn’t want to take a nap.” Afternoon naps had become so important to him that it was a little strange not to need one.
He was alone at the radio station. It wasn’t quite time to go to the Christmas Eve service. He was at loose ends.
“So I got up and cleaned the toilet!” Bell laughs.
The Sleep Disorders Center at Fort Sanders Regional has given countless patients renewed energy to get up and live life instead of trying to sleep through it. If you think you or someone you love may be suffering from a sleep disorder, see a physician and ask for a referral.
For more information, call 865-541-1375 or visit fsregional.com/sleepcenter.