Say Goodnight to Sleepless Nights

Learn the causes and treatments for sleep disorders.

There are 28 accredited Sleep Centers in Connecticut that evaluate, diagnose and treat sleep disorders – yet many people continue to live with sleep deprivation.

Fifty to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems, according to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at National Institutes of Health.

“Living with a sleep disorder is not only unnecessary it can be dangerous,” says Dr. Brett Volpe, physician at the MidState Sleep Care Center in Meriden says.

In addition to the increased risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, lack of sleep can be a safety risk on the job and while driving.  

“Drowsy driving" causes more than 100,000 crashes per year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA).

According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, about 30-40 percent of adults say they have some symptoms of insomnia within a given year, and about 10-15 percent of adults say they have chronic insomnia. People who have trouble sleeping every night without exception for months or years are fairly rare. More often, people experience chronic-intermittent insomnia, which means difficulty sleeping for a few nights, followed by a few nights of adequate sleep before the problem returns.

These figures were reason enough for Patch to get educated on the sleep disorders and their treatments. This is what we learned:

There are three common sleep disorders.

Sleep Apnea: A condition in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. Breathing can stop for 10 to thirty seconds disrupting the quality of sleep. Symptoms include waking with a sore or dry throat; snoring; a choking or gasping sensation; restless sleep; sleepiness during the day; morning headaches; forgetfulness; mood changes.

Insomnia: The Latin word for no sleep is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Symptoms include difficulty falling asleep; waking up often during the night unable to fall back to sleep; waking too early in the morning; feeling tired upon waking.

Restless Leg Syndrome: RLS is a disorder that causes a strong urge to move your legs. Symptoms include an increasing urge to move when sitting still, lying down or resting; relief from movement such as walking; greater leg discomfort in the evening.

Other less common sleep disorders include sleep walking and narcolepsy, a disorder of the nervous system resulting in frequent, involuntary episodes of sleep during the day.

Dr. Volpe has worked with patients experiencing sleep disorders for fifteen years. He was willing to help educate our Patch readers by answering the following questions.

What is the most common type of sleep disorder? Sleep apnea.

How is sleep apnea different from snoring? Snoring is an abnormal sound people make from the upper airway flap or soft tissue. Sleep apnea is an actual obstruction of the soft tissue collapsing on itself. All people with sleep apnea snore but not all snorers have sleep apnea.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed? With a sleep study called a nocturnal polysomnogram. It shows the upper airway flow, respiratory effort and brain wave activity.

How is sleep apnea treated? Several ways but the most common is with a CPAP machine, (continuous positive airway pressure.)

Is surgery an option for sleep apnea patients? Yes, but most doctors believe if the condition is not life threatening you use surgery as a last resort.

What causes insomnia? Insomnia is a symptom with many causes; stress, mental disorders, medication are just a few.

How is Insomnia treated? Treatment depends on the cause. You have to address all factors. Medications may be used.

How common is restless leg syndrome? Quite common, fifteen percent of the patients we see have RLS. There are different causes of RLS but it is very treatable.

How is RLS treated? Again, it depends on the cause. If it is due to low iron then we give the patient iron. For other causes other medications are used.

Are there consequences to letting sleep disorders go untreated? Yes. Many studies show that chronic sleep problems can lead to an increased rate of psychological and medical disorders. Most importantly it affects quality of life.

When should a person seek medical advice? If a sleep problem does not go away in a week or so it should be addressed.

What do you see for the future of treating sleep disorders? New medications are coming out for insomnia and restless leg syndrome. It will be exciting to see how patients respond.

Are there any resources you recommend for someone wanting to learn more about sleep disorders? Go online to the Connecticut Sleep Society or the Connecticut Thoracic Society. Also, contact a sleep center. At the Midstate Sleep Center we are always willing to answer questions.

Dr. Volpe had one final comment to make when discussing sleep disorders. “One point I would like to make is that sleep is recently, in the past ten years, looked at much more in the medical field. Health problems are tied to sleep disorders. It is important for people who are concerned to inquire at a sleep center.”

Take the Quiz

Here is a Sleep Disorder Quiz offered by WEB MD to help you decide if it is time to visit a sleep center. If you answer yes to any of the following questions about sleep disorder, you may be dealing with insomnia or another type of sleep problem and should consult your doctor.

1. Do you snore loudly and/or heavily while asleep?

2. Are you excessively sleepy or do you lack energy in the daytime?

3. Do you have trouble with concentration or memory loss?

4. Do you fall asleep while driving, in meetings, while reading a book, or while watching


5. Do you have occasional morning headaches?

6. Do you sleepwalk, have nightmares, or have night terrors?

7. Do you suffer from depression or mood changes?

8. Do you have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep?

9. Have you experienced recent weight gain or high blood pressure?

10. Have you been told you hold your breath when you sleep?

To contact Midstate Sleep Care Center, located at 61 Pomeroy Avenue in Meriden, Connecticut, call 1.800.SLEEP RX 1.800.753.3779.

SnoreMeds August 25, 2011 at 09:27 AM
An informative article! As distributors of SnoreMeds anti-snoring mouthpiece we get countless queries from Sleep Apnea sufferers asking if they can use our mouthpiece to help with their Sleep Apnea - as they find the CPAP machine uncomfortable. While we always recommend that they visit their physician first to determine the severity of their Apnea, we have had sufferers of Mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea successfully using our mouthpiece. This is due to the fact that Mild Obstructive Apnea is fairly similar to snoring in that both are caused by the airway being obstructed while the sufferer sleeps. The mouthpiece works by gently holding the lower jaw in a slightly forward position - and this adjustment ensures that the airway remains unobstructed while the sufferer sleeps, allowing easier airflow.


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