Since 1997, Phelps's Sleep Disorders Center has been helping clients hit the hay more peacefully.
Although I’m a pulmonologist by training, I got involved as the hospital began the program because a lot of sleep disorders have to do with breathing disorders that occur during rest, says Dr. Gary Lehrman, the Center's medical director. “It was clear there were a lot of people out there who were undertreated."
The Center conducts an average of 100 sleep studies a month on patients referred by a primary physician. "Many come to us because their spouse is complaining that they snore" says Dr. Michael Bergstein, the Center's surgical director and an assistant clinical professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "One guy was getting married and his buddies threw him what was supposed to be a four-day bachelor party on a boat. They ended up bringing him back to shore after one night because he snored so loudly, no one else could sleep."
"The most common disorder we see is sleep apnea, a condition where you stop breathing temporarily, so you wake up at brief intervals, causing a very poor night's rest" says Dr. Lehrman. If it's severe enough, it could lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. And, of course, sufferers are continually exhausted and apt to nod off at inappropriate times. “More car accidents are caused by people who fell asleep at the wheel than by drunk driving ", Dr. Bergstein notes.
More rarely, a patient is found to have a parasomnia, a category of disorders including sleepwalking and sleep terrors. Other conditions the Center treats include insomnia, seizures during sleep, narcolepsy -a condition in which a person falls asleep without warning and restless leg syndrome, which causes intense, uncomfortable sensations throughout the legs while they remain still during sleep.
"We have an abundance of board-certified experts to help spot all these sleep problems", says Dr. Lehrman.