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March 28, 2006 > Can't Sleep? You're Not Alone!

Can't Sleep? You're Not Alone!

Do you frequently toss and turn all night and wake up feeling tired? If so, you're not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 70 million people in the United States may be affected by sleeping. To increase awareness of sleeping disorders and the importance of getting a good night's sleep, the National Sleep Foundation is sponsoring Sleep Awareness Week from March 27 to April 2 to coincide with the change to daylight-saving time when the clocks "spring ahead" and we all lose an hour of sleep.

"Up to one-third of the U.S. population may suffer from sleep disorders," says Clete Kushida, M.D., PhD., a specialist at the Washington-Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic in Fremont. "We all have an occasional sleepless night, but people who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night for more than a week should consult their physician or see a sleep specialist. The long-term effects of sleep deprivation can dramatically affect your ability to function well during the day, and can even lead to serious health consequences."

Kushida notes that the three most common sleep disorders include sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome.

"Sleep apnea affects about 25 percent of men and nine percent of women from age 30 to 60," he explains. "In this condition, the upper airway collapses briefly during sleep, causing lapses in breathing which interrupt your sleep. Additional symptoms can include loud snoring, dry mouth upon awakening, morning headaches and night sweats. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and daytime drowsiness that can contribute to accidents while driving or at work."

Treatment for sleep apnea may involve the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which delivers air into the airway through a specially designed nasal mask. The flow of air pressure through the mask keeps the airway open. Surgery of the airway is another form of treatment that may be required to correct the problem. Oral appliances that move either the tongue or the upper jaw forward can also be effective in treating sleep apnea.

"Insomnia entails difficulty in falling asleep and/or staying asleep," Kushida says. "There can be a variety of causes for insomnia. Short-term insomnia may be caused by stress or anxiety, jet lag, or another temporary disruption in your life. Chronic insomnia that lasts for a month or longer can be caused by medical, physical or psychological conditions. Treatment for insomnia generally entails making behavioral changes to address the underlying causes. Mild, yet effective sleeping medications may also help. It is important to be evaluated by a physician before taking medications, however."

Restless leg syndrome - an uncomfortable, painful or unusual sensation in the legs that creates an almost irresistible urge to move them - is another common sleep disorder. "This urge to move your legs is generally worse when you are at rest and at bedtime," Kushida says. "Once you're asleep, you also may experience twitching in your arms or legs, known as periodic limb movements, which can awaken you from your sleep. The best way to treat this disorder is with medications that work on the brain's receptors for dopamine - a chemical in the brain that plays a role in controlling body movements."

In addition to treating these three disorders, the specialists at the Washington-Stanford Sleep Disorder Clinic can assist people with problems such as walking or talking in their sleep, narcolepsy and "circadian" disorders in which the person's normal biological clock is disturbed.

"We see approximately 125 patients each month," says the clinic's Chief Technologist and Site Manager Terri Quinonez, RPSGT, REEGT, BS. "In addition to our office hours during the day, we conduct sleep testing at night, with patients coming in at 7:30 p.m. to spend the night in a hotel-room-like setting while we monitor their physiological patterns related to sleep problems such as brain waves, eye movements, heart function, muscle tone, respiration, limb movement, oxygen level and snoring. Our professional staff is specially trained in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. We are a full-service sleep clinic. We are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), and serve the pediatric through geriatric populations."

For information about the AASM - including physician referrals, please visit their Web site at For more information about the Washington-Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, or to schedule an evaluation, please call (510) 818-6277.

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