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Sleep Centers Treating Younger Patients

Excerpted from the Sioux Falls Business Journal, May 2007.

In an effort to help decrease the long-term effects associated with sleep disorders, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center's Sleep Diagnostic Center is trying to increase awareness of sleep disorders in children, teens and adults of all ages. Staff members are trying to prevent and treat related health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular problems, kidney failure, diabetes and attention deficit disorder in children.

Avera's sleep center has been growing since its founding in 1987. "We're seeing younger and younger men and women," said Lanny Baker, manager of the sleep lab and respiratory care.

Fifty to 70 million U.S. residents struggle with chronic sleep disorders, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2006. The Avera Sleep Center evaluates patients from premature infants to patients older than 90 for sleep disorders that include chronic insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

To accommodate the increasing number of patients, the center recently expanded and moved to their new location. This new locations has additional sleeping rooms, new testing equipment and software. Each room is climate-controlled and includes a flat-screen TV and DVD player. "The rooms were designed to look and feel more like home," Baker said.

Tests are conducted Monday through Friday nights with a registered sleep technician observing two patients at a time. Patients are hooked up to 23 sensor wires from their head to their legs. The sensors record brain waves, muscle activity, heart rhythms, airways and other body functions. As sleep technician looks for signs of a disorder such as airways closing off.

"Although sleep medicine emerged in the early 1970s, it's still fairly new," said Darla Klinger, a registered sleep technician at Avera.

Avera McKennan Sleep Disorder Center is accredited by the American Association of Sleep Medicine which was established in 1975. It has more than 1,000 accredited center and labs.

Avera sleep center works closely with the Avera McKennan Behavioral Health Center to see if there's a correlation with sleep disorders and the behavioral center's patients.