The Sleep Center at Oro Valley Hospital continues to make great strides since opening in June 2008.

It expanded from three nights of operation to six nights in late March. It has completed 72 of a capacity 140 sleep studies for patients of all ages in its busiest month thus far. Plans are to increase from four to six beds in the near future, and to seek sleep center accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in early 2010.

"We see ourselves as an interdisciplinary center," said John Worden, the hospital's cardiopulmonary director. "There are many (sleep disorder) testing centers out there. We're much more than that."

Initial patient evaluation by a physician may or may not suggest the need for a one- or two-night non-invasive study at the Sleep Center to gather more information, according to Dr. Todd Locher, Sleep Center director.

If the overnight evaluation is done, it usually reconfirms initial diagnosis, and also could uncover other concerns to address.

In Suite 269 of the Medical Office Building adjacent to the hospital, an overnight stay will find the patient with many electrodes attached to the body to measure 16 channels of information. All feed into a computer recording brain waves, eye movements, muscle tension and breathing patterns, among other information.

The rooms are designed to create a comfortable home-like feeling to promote a familiar sleep environment. Patients also have a chance to fall asleep watching television, if desired.

In a nearby control room, one technician for every two occupied rooms monitors the information for assessment, testing and perhaps treatment.

"Our most common patient is one with sleep apnea," said Dr. Locher, referring to persons who actually stop breathing and then start again many times a night. Apnea affects at least one of every 200 Americans.

"Then, in order, come patients with insomnia, restless leg syndrome and internal clock rhythm problems."

"Many patients have a combination of these concerns and sometimes other concerns," said Dr. Jyostna Sahni. "We're seeing some pretty complicated cases."

Patient age is a widespread range. "One day recently," added Dr. Sahni, "I worked with patients 16 and 70 years old with the same problem: sleep apnea."

Cost of initial consultation and overnight sleep study is about $2,000 – much like a magnetic resonance imaging procedure, according to Worden. Patient insurance usually covers most or all of the cost.

A separate department of the hospital, the Sleep Center has a staff of eight persons, headed by Drs. Locher and Sahni. Both will seek sleep disorder specialty accreditation before the year's end.

Future Sleep Center plans call for special emphasis in the pediatrics area and moving into expanded quarters, perhaps in 2010, in a yet-to-be-built building west of the Medical Office Building.

The history of sleep medicine is a relatively new medical area, dating back to the 1980s. Studies show one-third of all adult Americans say they do not get a good night's sleep. The most common complaint across the U.S.: insomnia, the feeling a person has not slept well or long enough.

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