Sleep Disorders and Treatment

Also known as: Sleep Medicine, Sleep Study, Sleep Health

Providence sleep experts help diagnose, treat and follow a range of common sleep disorders. Examples of testing include polysomnography, home sleep studies, actigraphy, overnight oximetry, multiple sleep latency test and maintenance of wakefulness test. By partnering with experts across disciplines, our team is able to manage an array of sleep issues and interactions with overall health.

Common sleep disorder symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Interruptions in breathing
  • Disruptive movements during sleep
  • Restless, non-restorative sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness

Common Sleep Disorders

Insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep. Insomnia can be caused by a combination of psychological, biological, lifestyle and environmental factors.

Snoring is typically regarded as harmless. However, it should not be taken lightly. Snoring not only disrupts domestic harmony, it can also be a symptom of a more serious disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea occurs when you repeatedly stop breathing for more than 10 seconds during sleep, depriving the heart, brain and other vital organs of oxygen. Sleep apnea causes fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

Night terrors and sleepwalking share common symptoms, including the fear of waking up somewhere besides your own bed. You may appear confused or disoriented. You may walk around or hide things. You probably won’t remember what you did when you wake up.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) describes irresistible leg movements. It can be accompanied by a creeping sensation deep in the legs and arms. Periodic leg movements in sleep (PLMS) is a similar condition with repetitive leg movements lasting up to five seconds, occurring every 20 to 40 seconds. PLMS may disrupt sleep and cause drowsiness during the day.

Sleep/wake disturbances, such as those associated with jet lag or work-shift changes, are caused by jolts to the body’s biological clock. These issues may be relatively short-term, but they affect how you feel and function.

Narcolepsy is uncommon but can be dangerous. It involves daytime sleep attacks, loss of muscle tone and hallucinations while falling asleep.

REM behavioral disorder is characterized by vigorous, often dangerous, sleep behaviors accompanied by vivid dreaming. With normal sleep, you become paralyzed so you don’t act out your dreams. With REM behavior disorder, paralysis is absent, which may cause you to physically, often violently, act out your dreams.

Treatment Options

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)

The most common effective treatment for sleep apnea, this therapy uses a light mask placed over the nose during sleep. A small fan blows air through the nasal passages to keep the upper airway from collapsing and allows for more normal breathing and sleep. Air pressure is adjusted so it is just enough to keep the airway open. Some CPAP units start with a very low pressure and gradually increase it to allow the user to fall asleep prior to reaching the full-prescribed pressure. Also, some CPAP units can vary the pressure to coincide with the user's breathing pattern (Bi-PAP).

Oral Appliances

Some sleep apnea patients can benefit from using an appliance worn in the mouth during sleep. It is designed to bring the jaw, tongue and soft palate forward in order to keep the upper airway open.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral changes are an important part of the treatment program, and in mild cases of sleep apnea may be all that is required. Alcohol, tobacco and sleeping pills, which may make the airway more likely to close during sleep, should be avoided. Weight loss can be a very effective way of reducing the amount and severity of sleep apnea. In some people sleep apnea only occurs while sleeping on the back. Use of pillows and other devices that help them sleep on their side can be quite helpful.


Physical structures that may interfere with normal breathing during sleep can sometimes be corrected surgically. Common procedures include removal of enlarged tonsils and adenoids (especially in children), nasal polyps or other growths or tissues, and correction of deviated nasal septums. Additional surgical options include:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) removes excess tissues at the back of the throat including tonsils, uvula, and part of the soft palate.
  • Laser Assisted Uvuloplasty (LAUP) uses a laser device to remove tissue in the back of the throat. LAUP has not been shown to be effective in treating sleep apnea, but is used to reduce or eliminate snoring.
  • Tracheostomy is used in the most severe, life-threatening cases of sleep apnea. This procedure creates an external opening in the windpipe to enable air to flow directly into the lungs, bypassing any upper airway obstruction. This opening is plugged while the subject is awake, but is opened during sleep. Although highly effective, it is rarely used.
  • Maxilomandibular Advancement: surgical correction for deformities of the lower jaw.
  • Surgical Treatment for Severe Obesity can be used for cases of severe sleep apnea in patients who are morbidly obese. Visit Providence Medical Group's Bariatric Services to learn more about weight-loss surgery.

Contact Us

Providence St. Patrick Hospital

Providence St. Joseph Medical Center

Providence Neurology Specialists

Sleep Center at Providence St. Patrick Hospital

Sleep Center at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center

Providence Sleep Medicine