Undiagnosed Sleep Disorders Can Mean More Than Sleepless Nights

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 70 million Americans are affected by some sort of sleep problem. However, experts expect many suffer from sleep disorders but have yet to be diagnosed or treated.

For patients such as Gia Alexander, the St. Joseph Sleep Center has become a place to turn to for the common, and sometimes, not so common sleep disorders.

"She's got an unusual problem she has what's called circadian rhythm disorder," Lisa Bond with the St. Joseph Sleep Center said. "Because of her blindness and her inability to get light cues that we normally get that tell us 'now is the time to be awake, now is the time to be asleep,' her circadian rhythm is off."

Alexander has been vision-impaired since she was child, but it wasn't until more recently that her lack of sight began affecting her sleep.

To help overcome those restless nights, sleep officials hook Alexander up to wires placed strategically on her body. Once asleep, those wires deliver vital information on the patients sleeping conditions.

"We monitor their brain wave activity. We're going to monitor their eye movements," Bond said. "We're going to monitor their muscle tones. We'll be monitoring their leg movements and their breathing efforts."

The sleep center helps patients overcome a variety of sleep disorders, including snoring, restless legs and sleep apnea.

"Obstructive sleep apnea is probably the most dangerous one for several reasons. One, you could stop breathing and not restart," Bond said. "It can cause a heart attack. It can cause a stroke. It leads to high blood pressure and diabetes."

In most cases, sleep experts can diagnose and treat patients in one visit. The key is seeking treatment.

"Reggie White, the football player, he actually died from obstructive sleep apnea that was not treated. It can be deadly," Bond said.