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Sleep Medicine

Our bodies and brains need restful sleep to perform well. Most adults have trouble sleeping from time to time, but as many as 40 million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder. Studies show that poor sleep strains the heart and is linked to high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke and other serious diseases.

The sleep medicine program at West Penn Allegheny Health System diagnoses and treats patients who have excessive snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep or other medical problems that occur or worsen during sleep.

People who suspect they may have a sleep disorder are encouraged to undergo a comprehensive sleep study, called a polysomnogram, by physicians who are board certified in sleep medicine.

During a polysomnogram, sleep patterns are identified by measuring the patient's brain waves, eye movements, voluntary muscle movements, periodic leg movements, cardiac function and respiration. Other measures can be added in specific cases, including esophageal Ph monitoring for patients who are thought to have asthma related to acid regurgitation from the stomach.

A variety of abnormal sleeping patterns may be detected during the sleep study and specific therapies are then prescribed for disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia and other conditions including sleepwalking, asthma, esophageal reflux or nightmares that may be dangerous to a patient's health and disruptive to sleep.

Treatment may include medicine, therapy, weight loss, relaxation techniques and/or use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a device with a flexible mask, air hose and pump that helps keep your airway open while you sleep. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to correct nasal or throat conditions that cause breathing problems.

Sleep center physicians are part of a multidisciplinary team, including specialists in pulmonary medicine, neurology, psychiatry, ear, nose and throat surgery, oral maxillofacial surgery and dental medicine, that works together to ensure that each patient receives comprehensive care.

  • Polysomnography (sleep study)
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Electro-oculogram (EOG)
  • Submental electro-myogram (EMG)
  • Esophageal Ph monitoring
  • Multidisciplinary team consultation
  • State-of-the-art sleep laboratory
  • All studies interpreted by board-certified sleep physicians
  • Excessive snoring treatment
  • Hypersomnolence treatment
  • Sleep apnea treatment
  • Narcolepsy treatment
  • Insomnia treatment
  • Parasomnia treatment


Information for Patients

About Sleep Disorders

The most common sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea. A child or adult with this condition stops breathing, wakes up to start breathing again, and then falls back to sleep hundreds or even thousands of times every night. This cycle deprives the patient of oxygen during the night, straining the heart, and causing fatigue the following day.

Other common sleep disorders include:

  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS) -- uncomfortable sensations in the legs and sudden leg jerks that disrupt sleep
  • Narcolepsy -- an uncontrollable urge to sleep during the day, even when it's dangerous to do so (for example, while driving)
  • Insomnia -- trouble falling asleep at a regular time each night for more than a few nights
  • Parasomnias -- may include nighttime chest pain, night terrors, nightmares, sleep walking, bedwetting and teeth grinding

Learn more about Sleep Medicine in our Health Library.

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