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Sleeping problems grow during tough times

In Dr. Jeffery P Barasch, sleep disorders, Valley Hospital on March 4, 2009 at 3:03 pm

04:33 PM CST on Monday, March 2, 2009

http://www.relax411online.com/?q=node/121

McClatchy Newspapers

HACKENSACK, N.J. – Stressed by economic uncertainty, nearly 30 percent of Americans say they lose sleep at least a few nights a week, according to the national “Sleep in America” poll released Monday.

Declining home values, dwindling savings and fear of layoffs are forcing more people to seek help for insomnia, sleep apnea and a host of other sleep disorders, physicians say.

Sleep centers are reporting significant increases in consultations. One of New Jersey’s largest centers is hiring two more specialists to handle growing volume. In some cases, desperate patients are even asking sleep experts for financial advice.

“It’s been kind of alarming to me over the last few months,” said Dr. Adam Glassman, director of the Northern New Jersey Center for Sleep Medicine at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, N.J.

The center has logged a 20 percent increase in patients in the last year, many of whom are worried about job loss and finances.

Dr. Jeffrey P. Barasch, medical director of the Sleep Center at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., hears a familiar litany of worries from patients, some of whom had sleep disorders under control until the economy soured.

“A large percentage of people are experiencing difficulties that they’ve related to financial worries,” Barasch said.

And we’re more tired than ever. The average adult needs seven hours and 24 minutes, but reports getting just six hours and 40 minutes on a typical weekday, according to the poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation.

One in five surveyed said they get fewer than six hours of sleep on average.

The number of Americans who report they get the recommended eight hours has declined from 28 to 38 percent since 2001.

“It’s a hell of a world out there,” said Mark Aosia, who suffers from sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops during sleep.

Aosia, 51 of Waldwick, N.J., has used a machine for 12 years that helps maintain a steady flow of air while he sleeps.

But even with the machine, he’s finding it harder to fall asleep lately. Pressures at his job as a middle manager of a large Bergen County, N.J., corporation are mounting.

“I’m thinking of all the work I have to do or the bad news I have to deliver,” Aosia said.

The loss of sleep can have profound effects, the survey found. Twenty five percent of those surveyed said they were unable to work well and efficiently, while 30 percent said they were unable to exercise because they were too tired from lack of sleep. Forty-one percent said they had driven drowsy at least once a month in the past year, according to the survey.

With unemployment at a high, more folks are struggling.

Last week, Dr. Jeffrey Salizzoni, a sleep specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at Englewood (N.J.) Hospital and Medical Center, told a patient he could not drive until his sleep disorder was under control.

“People are going to have sleep issues during these times,” Salizzoni said. “They worry about work and they’re stressed.”

More patients are reporting anxiety, panic attacks and depression, which is causing insomnia, said Susan Zafarlotfi, a sleep specialist at Hackensack University Medical Center. Many patients who were treated a few years ago have returned, claiming their insomnia is back because of financial woes, she said.

“One of my patients asked me if she should go for bankruptcy or foreclosure,” said Zafarlotfi, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep-Wake Disorders at Hackensack, N.J., which treats more than 3,000 patients a year.

Dr. Carol E. Ash, medical director of Sleep for Life, which is owned by Somerset, N.J., Medical Center and operates one of the state’s largest treatment facilities, doesn’t need a survey to tell her more patients are struggling.

“They come right out and say it, patient after patient: ‘I can’t sleep because my company is having layoffs’ or they can’t sell their house,” Ash said.

In fact, volume has increased so dramatically the center plans to add two more physicians to its staff of 10 board-certified sleep specialists.

Unlike other economic downturns in which cost-cutting stabilized the family budget, this recession is life-changing for many people who find themselves starting a new career at 50, postponing college, selling their house or forgoing retirement.

All of those challenges become more daunting without sleep, Ash said.

“Sleep is linked to mental processing and health,” she said. “When you’re not sleeping well it impairs your thinking, learning, reaction time and coping skills.”

Lack of sleep can have devastating health consequences.

A 1999 study at the University of Chicago showed that restricting sleep to just four hours per night for a week left healthy young adults with the glucose and insulin readings of diabetics.

Sleep apnea can lead to stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure.

In search of sleep, more Americans have turned to prescription sleep medications. In adults aged 20 to 44, usage increased 88 percent from 2001 to 2008, according to an analysis by Medco Health Solutions Inc.

“For short-term, they will help people for a few nights or a few weeks,” Barasch said. “The downside is people get dependent on it.”

Lieselotte Hager, 65 of Hillsdale, underwent a sleep study at Valley Hospital’s sleep center last week after her husband said she had snored and stopped breathing. Preliminary tests revealed she has apnea, she said.

A German immigrant and survivor of World War II, she says: “My husband and I don’t owe anyone a nickel. We’re conservative. We only used cash and bought things we could afford.”

“But I pray every night for all the people who have lost their jobs.”

http://www.relax411online.com/?q=node/121

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  1. I could fall asleep reading this.

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