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Sleeping problems focus of week

March 29, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

Tri-State residents who are having trouble sleeping can learn about sleep disorders and the importance of getting enough sleep on National Sleep Awareness Day on Tuesday.

The Sleep-Breathing Disorders Center of Hagerstown will have various materials and activities available for free between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday at its office at 12821 Oak Hill Ave.

This week, March 29 through April 4, is National Sleep Awareness Week.

Lack of sleep causes more than $18 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a 1997 National Sleep Foundation survey.

A poll this year by the foundation found that 62 percent of adults said they drove while feeling drowsy and 27 percent had actually dozed off behind the wheel in the past year.

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The foundation reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found at least 100,000 crashes a year are caused by drowsy drivers.

On Tuesday, the local Sleep-Breathing Disorders Center will have free materials such as the National Sleep Foundation IQ test and a sleep diary.

One of the center's three pulmonologists also will be available to answer questions, said office manager Tracye McKenzie.

If the doctor thinks there is a problem, participants can schedule appointments, she said. The firm is so busy it is booked through May.

Twelve to 15 sleep studies are conducted at night during the week, McKenzie said.

During a sleep study, the patient is monitored for brain activity, muscle activity, eye movement, cardiac activity, movement of the chest and abdomen, movement of air in and out of the nose, and oxygen saturation, which is the oxygen level in the blood, said Dr. Johny Alencherry.

Sleep problems also can cause more serious medical problems than many people realize, McKenzie said.

If a person's oxygen saturation level is consistently low, it can affect the function of the heart, brain and other organs, Alencherry said.

One sleep disorder is sleep apnea, when a person stops breathing during sleep.

If this happens five to 20 times a night, it is mild, Alencherry said.

A person who stops breathing more than 40 times a night on a consistent basis has a severe case of sleep apnea, Alencherry said.

People with severe sleep apnea and who exhibit symptoms such as falling asleep while driving, feeling extremely tired during the day or not being able to perform their work during the day can be treated with a mask that forces air into the back of the throat so airways don't close during the night, according to Alencherry and McKenzie.

Many people who use the mask improve their quality of life, McKenzie said.

For more information, visit the National Sleep Foundation's web site at www.sleepfoundation.org.

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