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Sleep Disorders Center

Did you know that 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep problem and nearly 60 percent of them have a chronic sleep disorder? Our multi-disciplinary Sleep Center at Mass. Eye and Ear, Quincy helps adult and pediatric patients with sleep concerns. Our Center performs comprehensive sleep studies for children and adults.  Certified sleep technicians constantly observe and monitor the sleeping patient overnight while obtaining critical data which is then reviewed by a physician who is board-certified in sleep medicine. 

At the Center, our top priority is to make the patient feel safe and comfortable as we collect the important diagnostic data their referring physician seeks. We respect each patient’s privacy. The patient sleeps in a private bedroom equipped with a flat screen TV, a comfortable bed and direct dial telephone. We also provide amenities such as evening snacks and full tea-and coffee-making facilities for the morning. The Center is in our Mass. Eye and Ear, Quincy Diagnostic Center, which is conveniently located on the first floor in Crown Colony Office Park, at the junction of Route 93 and Route 3. There is free parking!

Common Sleep Disorders

Some of the more common sleep disorders we treat include obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, insomnia, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome. Treatment approaches range from medication to CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and dental appliances to a variety of inpatient, outpatient, and in-office surgical procedures by Mass. Eye and Ear board-certified otolaryngologists.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring

Sleep Apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.  Many episodes last 10 seconds or more and occur repeatedly throughout the night.  People with sleep apnea will partially awaken as they struggle to breathe, but in the morning they will not be aware of the disturbances in their sleep.  The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), caused by relaxation of soft tissue in the back of the throat that blocks the passage of air.  Central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused by irregularities in the brain's normal signals to breathe.  Most people with sleep apnea will have a combination of both types.  The most obvious symptom of the disorder is excessive daytime sleepiness.  Other symptoms of sleep apnea include restless sleep, loud snoring (with periods of silence followed by gasps), falling asleep during the day, morning headaches, trouble concentrating, irritability, forgetfulness, mood or behavior changes, anxiety, and depression.  Not everyone who has these symptoms will have sleep apnea but it is recommended that people who are experiencing even a few of these symptoms visit their doctor for evaluation.  Sleep apnea is more likely to occur in men than women, and in people who are overweight or obese.

Diagnosis

Some of the ways to help doctors diagnose sleep apnea include:

  • A medical history that includes asking you and your family questions about how you sleep and how you function during the day.
  • Checking your mouth, nose, and throat for extra or large tissues, for example tonsils, uvula (the tissue that hangs from the middle of the back of the mouth), and soft palate (roof of your mouth in back of your throat).
  • A sleep recording of what happens with your breathing.
  • A sleep recording is a test that is often done in a sleep center or laboratory.

You may stay overnight in the sleep center.  If the patient is a child, one parent is allowed to stay with the child overnight.  The most common sleep recording used to find out if you have sleep apnea is called a polysomnogram (poly-SOM-no-gram) or PSG.

This test records:

  • Brain activity
  • Eye movement
  • Muscle activity
  • Breathing and heart rate
  • How much air moves in and out of your lungs while you are sleeping
  • The percentage of oxygen in your blood

A PSG is painless.  You will go to sleep as usual.  The staff at the sleep center will monitor your sleep throughout the night.  The results of your PSG will be analyzed by a sleep medicine specialist to see if you have sleep apnea, how severe it is, and what treatment may be recommended.

*Treatment

There are a variety of treatments for sleep apnea, depending on a patient's individual medical history and the severity of the disorder.  Many treatment regimens begin with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and medications that relax the central nervous system (for example, sedatives and muscle relaxants), losing weight, and quitting smoking.  Some people are helped by special pillows or devices or oral appliances to keep the airway open during sleep. If these methods are inadequate, doctors often recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which a face mask is attached to a tube and a machine that blows pressurized air into the mask and through the airway to keep it open.  There are also surgical procedures that can be used to remove tissue and widen the airway.  Some individuals may need a combination of therapies to help with their sleep apnea.

Surgery

Some people with sleep apnea may benefit from surgery.  The type of surgery depends on the cause of the sleep apnea:

  • Surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids if they are blocking the airway.  This surgery is especially helpful for children. 
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a surgery that removes the tonsils, uvula and part of your soft palate.  This surgery is only effective for some people with sleep apnea.
  • Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) is a surgery that can stop snoring but is probably not helpful in treating sleep apnea.  A Laser device is used to remove the uvula and part of the soft palate.  Because the main symptom of sleep apnea-snoring is stopped, it is important to have a sleep study before having this surgery.

Tracheostomy is a surgery used in severe sleep apnea.  A small hole is made in the windpipe and a tube is inserted.  Air will flow through the tube and into the lungs.  This surgery is very successful but is needed only in patients not responding to all other possible treatments. Other possible surgeries for some people with sleep apnea include: 

  • Rebuilding the lower jaw
  • Surgery of the nose
  • Surgery to treat obesity

*Prognosis

Untreated, sleep apnea can be life threatening.  Excessive daytime sleepiness can cause people to fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while driving.  Sleep apnea also appears to put individuals at risk for stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs, also known as "mini-strokes"), and is associated with coronary heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and high blood pressure.  Although there is no cure for sleep apnea, recent studies show that successful treatment can reduce the risk of heart and blood pressure problems.

*National Institutes of Health

To make an appointment with one of our physicians for a sleep consultation, call 617-774-1717.