I don’t sleep as well as I should, but why is that a medical problem?
Sleep is not just a quality-of-life issue. Chronic sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality pose serious risks to your health. One of the biggest concerns is obstructive sleep apnea, which has been strongly linked with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, stroke and heart attack. Apnea may also play a role in diabetes. In addition, people with sleep apnea are three to seven times more likely than others to be in a car crash.
How do I know if I am a good candidate for the Sleep Disorders Program?
One of the most common — and commonly ignored — symptoms of a sleep disorder is snoring. If you snore, you should be evaluated for potentially serious airway obstruction, especially if you have a cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure. You should also get medical attention if your partner sees you stop breathing during sleep. Other symptoms that could point to a sleep disorder are excessive daytime irritability or grogginess, insomnia, feeling tired after 10 to 12 hours of sleep, several near-miss car crashes, and excessive leg movement, or tossing and turning at night.
What happens during a sleep study?
When you undergo a sleep study, you spend the entire night in a private room in the sleep center. After arriving at the center around 8:00 pm, you will meet the sleep technologist who will conduct your test. The technologist will thoroughly explain your study and then fit you with leads or devices that are part of your evaluation. The whole fitting process takes about 30 to 45 minutes. You are then free to relax, read a bit or watch TV until you fall asleep. The technologist monitors you all night from the center’s control room. If you are having an apnea study and your monitors show apnea events, you will be awakened around 2:00 am and fitted with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask. This simple device uses air pressure to keep the throat open. The technologist will start the CPAP pressure at a low setting, and then gradually increase the level until monitors indicate you are achieving deep sleep with no breathing gaps.
What if the CPAP mask doesn’t work for me?
Up to 90 percent of patients who receive a CPAP learn to tolerate it relatively well. Some people, however, are not able to make the device work for them. For these patients, the next step may be surgery. Surgical options for opening up the airway include reconstructive techniques, laser and radiofrequency procedures, and palatal implants.
Can you help people with sleep problems even if they don’t have a breathing disorder?
Yes. Patients with neurological disorders — like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain — often have related sleep problems. The Sleep Disorders Program team includes a neurologist who specializes in helping patients who suffer from these diseases. The team also includes a rehabilitation psychologist who works with patients dealing with emotional/behavioral problems like insomnia and shift work disorder. The psychologist provides counseling and education on effective techniques for overcoming these problems.
Does health insurance cover evaluation and treatment for sleep disorders?
Individual insurance companies may require a referral from your primary care physician before you can be evaluated by a sleep medicine specialist. Diagnostic tests usually require pre-authorization, which our staff will do before scheduling any tests.
Medical treatment, such as medication and CPAP equipment, may require pre-authorization from your insurance company. We work with insurers in order to maximize the treatment choices for each patient.
Surgery to correct obstructive sleep apnea is usually covered by health insurance. Please check with your health insurance provider to determine your coverage.
How long will it take before I can be evaluated?
If your primary care physician has referred you to the Sleep Disorders Program, pre-authorization typically takes two to three weeks.