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Sleep Disorders and Studies

How We Diagnose Sleep Disorders

There are many signs and symptoms that can indicate a sleep disorder. In some cases, conducting an overnight sleep study or polysomnogram can diagnose specific sleep disorders. If you recognize any of the following patterns in your sleep or life, please schedule an appointment to see a PMA sleep medicine doctor:

  • Breathing cessation while sleeping
  • Inability to sleep
  • Kicking or leg movements during the night
  • Loud snoring
  • Restless sensation in legs prior to bed
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Unexplained daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Waking regularly throughout the night

Many sleep disorders can be diagnosed with an overnight sleep study, or polysomnogram, according to Dr. Lawrence Stein at Pulmonary and Medical Associates. The sleep study simultaneously records the patient’s brain waves, muscle activity, heart rhythms, belly and chest wall effort, airflow to the nose and mouth, snoring patterns, blood oxygen levels, and nerve impulses to the eye. These factors can help identify the onset of REM (rapid eye movement), dream states and possible impediments to sound sleep.

Sleep apnea is a condition affecting some 15 million Americans and it is among the most common disorders diagnosed at the Lab. Those affected often experience fatigue, headaches, and lethargy. They often have repetitive, involuntary breathing pauses throughout the night due to absent or impaired airflow through the back of the throat. “This results in an adrenaline surge, which in turn causes an elevation in respiratory effort, blood pressure, lung circulatory pressures, and heart rate,” Dr. Stein explains. “The outcome is sleep disruption, loud, irregular snoring, carryover fatigue, and headaches.”

Men are twice as likely as women to suffer from sleep apnea. This is commonly associated with obesity and large neck size and can be exacerbated by alcohol, tobacco and sedative use. Once diagnosed, it can be easily treated with a bedside device, roughly the size of a toaster, called Nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). A mask attached to the machine blows a constant stream of air into the nose and mouth, acting as a pneumatic splint to prevent the throat from collapsing.

Another common sleep disorder affecting 3-5% of U.S. adults is restless leg syndrome (RLS). Individuals with RLS often experience a pins-and-needles sensation in their legs and feel an irresistible urge to move, making sleep initiation difficult. RLS is often associated with anemia, pregnancy, kidney problems and back problems, says Dr. Stein. Although it can affect individuals of all ages, it is most often seen in older adults. Fortunately, RLS can be treated with a range of therapies.

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