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New Lovelace center focuses on sleep

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The new Lovelace Sleep Center has four beds, from which a patient with a sleep disorder can be monitored so a treatment plan can be developed. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new center at Lovelace Westside Hospital has opened to help sleep-challenged patients get more shut eye.

The Lovelace Sleep Center is designed to meet a growing demand from New Mexicans suffering from sleep disorders, according to Dr. James Bradley, a certified sleep medicine specialist. Along with a team of  four registered sleep medicine technologists, Bradley will work closely with referring physicians to develop an effective diagnosis and treatment plan for people suffering from sleep-related problems.

“We think it’s an underserved niche,” said Bradley, adding that the new location could see about 100 patients a month.

The new business line was launched Tuesday by Lovelace officials, who welcomed guests with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Visitors were able to tour the 2,500-square-foot center.

Under Bradley’s supervision, technicians will use computer systems to monitor patients’ breathing, oxygen levels and brain waves to diagnose and develop treatment options. One overnight stay is sufficient for the measuring process.

Lovelace Health System invested roughly $500,000 in the facility, which offers four sleep study beds in a cozy, homelike setting. Choosing therapy over pills is the best route, said Bradley, adding that 60 million Americans have a sleep disorder that prevents them from getting a good night’s rest. And with a shortage of sleep experts, many of these chronic sleep problems go undiagnosed.

The most commonly treated problems are sleep apnea, excessive snoring, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy. Sleep apnea, a condition in which patients have multiple pauses in breathing during sleep, is becoming more common, partly due to an increasingly obese U.S. population.

One of the most effective treatment options for apnea is continuous positive airway press therapy, in which a machine helps keep the airway open by providing a stream of air through a mask worn during sleep.

Technology has evolved to make the devices smaller and less noisy, as has a focus on diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes to facilitate a good night’s sleep, he said.

Lovelace started the program because of the connection between sleep and other medical problems, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, said Bradley.

The population of people with sleep problems apparently is enough to support several entities in Central New Mexico that offer sleep disorder diagnosis, treatment and services. In addition to Lovelace, these sleep shops are at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, ABQ Health Partners, UNM and a standalone provider in Rio Rancho.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says the number of accredited centers has grown 400 percent since 2002.

Medicare payments quadrupled from $62 million in 2001 to $235 million in 2010 to fund sleep studies.

Depending on the insurance carrier, most patients have a co-pay for the service, said Bradley. The average out-of-pocket cost ranges from $300 to $400, he said.

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