The Sleep Services Center at Cape Regional Medical Center has upgraded its facilities and expanded its offerings, following its merger in October with the Sleep Center of Dr. Rajen Udani.

The hospital's Sleep Services Center has added SomnoStar diagnostic technology and brought in an interior decorator to help renovate the two rooms where sleep studies are conducted.

"We've tried to make it much more like a hotel and less like a hospital, so it's easier for people to fall asleep," said Richard Artymo-wicz, administrative director of sleep services for the hospital. That meant redecorating with queen-sized beds, private showers and comfy chairs.

Demand has risen the past decade for sleep-disorder diagnosis, from studying seven or eight patients per week to 10 now, said Artymowicz, of the Seaville section of Upper Township.

"We're thinking about adding Saturdays and doing 12 studies a week," he said.

The Sleep Services Center, at the hospital in Cape May Court House, performs polysomnographies - using technology to monitor a patient's heart rate, breathing and more while they sleep.

Most patients are referred to the sleep center for testing by their primary care physician, he said.

Artymowicz said the study typically lasts six hours, with patients arriving by 10:30 p.m., going to sleep at 11 p.m., and typically leaving at 6 a.m. when the center has enough data about their sleeping experience.

Patients are connected to the technology with wires attached to their scalp, like little electrocardiogram connectors.

"It's actually fairly comfortable," he said. "We don't get too many complaints that it's restrictive or people are having trouble falling asleep."

Before the sleep session, patients view a video about sleep study and sleep disorders, which generally relieves any anxiety they might have about the procedure.

Artymowicz said about 50,000 Americans have some kind of sleep disorder, and 35 million have problems that are sufficient to cause symptoms such as fatigue during the day or high blood pressure, or even contribute to heart disease.

Undiagnosed, sleep disorders also can reduce productivity at work, or even lead to falling asleep while driving or operating machinery.

A common disorder is sleep apnea, in which a person's breathing repeatedly stops and restarts while sleeping. An effective treatment for apnea available now is continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, which uses a machine and a mask to assist breathing.

"If the first identifies sleep apnea, they typically come back for a second study," Artymowicz said. "We hook them up to a machine and try various air pressures and flow rates until we work out the right settings. We also make sure we get a mask that's a good match for the patient."

A study published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found sleep-disorder patients were more likely to improve when they received care from board-certified sleep specialists and accredited sleep centers.

Such patients were twice as likely to continue positive airway pressure treatment, compared to those getting care from non-accredited centers and non-certified physicians. Patients also reported higher satisfaction and timeliness of care from sleep physicians and accredited centers.

"We get a lot of positive feedback. People didn't realize how good they could feel again," Artymowicz said.

The accreditation of the Sleep Services Center was renewed in March by the National Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Udani, who has become the center's managing director, is board certified in sleep medicine and internal medicine, and specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine.

Dr. William Bradway, the medical director of the Sleep Services Center, is board certified in sleep medicine, internal medicine and pulmonary medicine.

Artymowicz said some insurers are now asking that a preliminary study be done at home before a patient comes into the center for an overnight sleep study.

"We're getting ready to start offering that, too," he said. "The patient will come in, we'll show they how to hook up the scaled-down equipment, they'll go home, sleep, then bring us the data."

Further study or treatment will proceed based on those results, he said.

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