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Get your Zzzz's to protect your body from disease

September 03, 2013

Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743



Ware, MA (August 27, 2013) - Dr. Robert Ajello, Medical Director of the Baystate Regional Sleep Program at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital, board certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases, and Sleep Medicine discusses sleep and the importance of diagnosing and treating sleep disorders.
It's getting late, yet there are still things you need and want to do. Far too often, we see sleep as an option. Scrambling to meet the countless demands of the day, many of us cut back on sleep. But sufficient sleep is not a luxury; it is a necessity and should be thought of as a vital part of good health. The quality of our sleep directly affects the quality of our waking life, including mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, safety and even weight.
Sleep allows the body to actively recharge itself and prepare for the next day. When we rest, our brain is forming the pathways necessary for learning and creating memories and new insights. Without enough sleep, we might find that we can't focus, pay attention or respond quickly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. More than 25% of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10% experience chronic insomnia.
We have all experienced trouble sleeping at one time or another. This is normal and usually temporary, and often due to stress or other outside factors. But if sleep problems become a regular occurrence and interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Talk to your primary care provider if you are having trouble sleeping on more than three nights a week for one month. He or she can help determine whether your sleep issues are caused by some underlying health problem, and can help with a treatment plan.
Although sleep disorders are treatable, they often go unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated, because people don’t realize that they have a sleep disorder or don’t know that there are solutions available to them. Your primary care provider may ask you to see a sleep specialist he or she thinks you may have a sleeping disorder. A Sleep Specialist is an expert in assessing and treating sleep disorders, and brings hope to those suffering from insufficient sleep.

Signs of a sleep disorder could include difficulty waking up in the morning and/or waking up too early in the morning; difficulty concentrating; a problem with falling asleep at work; feelings of depression, anxiety, moodiness or general irritability; a creepy, crawling sensation experienced in the legs at night; snoring on a regular basis; or waking up often throughout the night. Although there are more than 80 distinct sleep disorders, there are a few that are more frequently diagnosed on a regular basis, they include:

Insomnia- One of the most common sleeping disorders is insomnia, whether this involves difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or both. This condition can occur due to various reasons. Some of the common causes of insomnia are improper sleeping position, stress, change in time zones, and altered sleep schedule. Some of the common symptoms from lack of sleep include heavy eyelids, watery eyes, excessive yawning, adverse effects on memory and on the ability to concentrate.

Sleep Apnea- Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing for brief periods (10 seconds or more) during sleep. The most common form of sleep apnea, called obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when muscles in the back of the throat relax during sleep and tissue blocks the airway. The person will either briefly wake up or come out of a deep sleep to re-establish breathing. These episodes can happen from a few to several hundred times each night. When a person stops breathing, oxygen levels in the blood drop. Over time, this can affect the brain and heart. As a result, sleep apnea has been linked to dangerous health conditions such as heart attacks, high blood pressure and stroke. Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, but it is most common in men and in people who are overweight. It can be successfully treated with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), a mask-like device that delivers a stream of air while a person sleeps. Dental mouth pieces, oral appliances and surgery are useful in selective cases. Losing weight, elevating the head of the bed, and sleeping on one’s side can also help those with mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Restless legs syndrome- Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that causes an almost irresistible urge to move your legs (or arms). The urge to move occurs when you’re resting or lying down and is usually due to uncomfortable, tingly, aching, or creeping sensations. Restless leg syndrome is not dangerous or life-threatening. However, it can be uncomfortable and delay sleep, which can affect your quality of life. For mild cases of RLS, taking a hot bath, massaging your legs or using an ice pack or a heating pad may help alleviate symptoms. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol and caffeine can further help improve RLS. Some people with RLS also find mental relaxation techniques helpful. A number of prescription medications are available to treat RLS.

Narcolepsy- Narcolepsy is another cause of excessive sleepiness. At times, a narcoleptic can fall asleep suddenly, even while working, driving or eating. A person with narcolepsy may find it impossible to stay awake the entire day or may feel sleepy even after a good night's sleep or a long nap. Another sign of narcolepsy sudden attacks of muscle weakness triggered by strong emotions are one sign of Narcolepsy. Other signs are inability to move or vivid hallucinations while falling asleep or waking up. Narcolepsy is usually treated with a variety of medications that help you stay awake during the day.
Diagnosing the problem Sleep studies, or polysomnograms (PSG), are tests used to diagnosis sleep disorders and to determine what is causing the problem. They are generally done during the night so that normal sleep patterns can be recorded; day studies may be done to accommodate night shift workers. Although many people wonder if they will actually be able to fall asleep in the center, the vast majority of patients have no trouble at all.

Baystate Mary Lane Hospital offers an advanced and comprehensive sleep program providing the very latest testing and diagnosis for all types of sleep disorders. Our 16-channel polysomnography studies are the gold standard according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. I am proud to lead the team of highly experienced sleep technicians and respiratory therapists to provide you and your doctor with the most accurate testing results and consultation. It is clear how critical sound sleep is to your health and well-being. Sleeping problems can occur in people of all ages, including children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults, and seniors. If you are not sleeping well, see your primary care provider and a sleep specialist, once diagnosed most sleep disorders can be corrected.


Dr. Robert Ajello, Medical Director of the Baystate Regional Sleep Program at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital, board certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases, and Sleep Medicine sees patients with pulmonary and sleep disorders. For more information or to schedule an appointment call BMP-Mary Lane Specialists, 83 South Street, Suite 3, in Ware at 413-967-2365.