The number of sleep-disorder facilities in Kentucky doubled from 25 to 52 in the past 10 years, part of a nationwide trend to help the 70 million Americans who have trouble getting some shuteye.
"Demand growth is a result of more physicians being better educated to recognize sleep deprivation symptoms as well as the public having more and better access to information and advertising that focuses on it," reports Anne Charles Doolin in an in-depth piece for The Lane Report. "Changes in insurance reimbursement also is playing a major part in the accredited facility surge."
Estimates show Americans suffer from more than 80 kinds of sleep disorders, though 85 percent of people are undiagnosed. "When we look at the most common sleep disorder, sleep apnea, we have evidence that demonstrates 25 percent of men are at risk and 9 percent of women are at risk," said Kathryn Hansen, executive director of the Kentucky Sleep Society.
In general, people don't think sleep problems can be fixed. "A typical patient is a male, in his 50s, slightly overweight," said Dr. Pam Combs, a cardiologist who has been studying sleep issues since the 1990s. "They don't think about sleep problems as the problem. They just think they're getting old and tired."
But not getting a good night's rest "is associated with a myriad of health conditions, and mental health conditions, and it undoubtedly affects productivity," said Dr. Ryan Wetzler, a clinical psychologist at Louisville's Sleep Medicine Specialists. "When you get a patient who has taken two hours to go to sleep for years or even decades, getting maybe four hours of sleep a night, and then with treatment they fall asleep quickly and get seven hours a night, it's a huge difference."
"Addressing the problem means less illness, less missed work and more productivity," said neurologist James M. Thompson. It's also less costly. Sleep disorders, sleep deprivation and sleepiness add up to about $15.9 billion to the national health care bill, the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research has found. "Other costs to society for related health problems, lost worker productivity and accidents can't be calculated, but educated guesses begin at 10 times NCSDR's health care cost tally," Doolin reports.
The assessment of sleep disorders has become more widely accepted as a field of study, with a recognized board exam, formal training programs and journals, said Dr. Barbara Phillips, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Kentucky Good Samaritan Hospital. But not all changes have been positive, with some fly-by-night "apnea mills" popping up "where the focus is on lucrative testing, and actual patient care and follow-up get shortchanged," Phillips said. (Read more)