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Sleep deprived again

State-of-the-art centers, though, are dueling to get you into bed

By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / February 14, 2010

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The odds of getting a good night’s sleep are rising in America’s Hometown.

On Obery Street in Plymouth, South Shore Sleep Diagnostics just opened a state-of-the-art sleep center, where the medical team started seeing patients this weekend. Early this month, Jordan Hospital launched its own such center in a medical office building on Resnik Road.

The fact that two sleep centers are opening in Plymouth - just a few miles apart - reflects a much larger trend that’s playing out across the country, as the quest for sound sleep has blossomed into a multibillion-dollar industry.

Since the first handful of sleep labs gained accreditation in 1977, advances in medicine, expanded treatment options, and increased public awareness are leading more people to discuss their sleeping habits with their doctors and seek relief from restless nights.

If you happen to snore, have a tendency to sleepwalk, or suffer from insomnia, there are plenty of places south of Boston where your doctor can send you, including facilities in Braintree, Brockton, Duxbury, Norwood, Quincy, Raynham, Stoughton, and Weymouth.

But all those options don’t faze Jordan Hospital officials, because there’s so much demand. The National Institutes of Health estimates that one in 10 adults has chronic insomnia; so, according to Jordan Hospital’s calculations, there could be 6,000 troubled sleepers living in Plymouth.

Before the Jordan Hospital Sleep Center’s grand opening on Feb. 3, more than 100 patients were on a waiting list for an appointment. At the center’s open house in January, about 100 people toured the facility and got a sneak preview of the rooms, according to spokesman Christopher Smalley. “That just shows the interest and the need is there,’’ he said.

In its first week of operation, Smalley said, the center served 19 patients.

South Shore Sleep Diagnostics’ (www.southshoresleep.com) Plymouth facility, which happens to be close to Jordan Hospital’s main campus, is the company’s second sleep center.

The first, in Bourne, “became so busy, we were booking two or three weeks out,’’ said Dr. Bernard J. Durante, medical director at South Shore Sleep Diagnostics. “We have a lot of patients in Plymouth. We really needed a facility in town.’’

At one point, the physicians at South Shore Sleep Diagnostics had discussed a collaboration with Jordan Hospital. “We had talked with Jordan about doing something together, and they decided to leave us out. So we went out and did it on our own,’’ said Durante, who’s also on staff at Jordan Hospital, and has been for 20 years.

South Shore Sleep Diagnostics transformed a former residence into a state-of-the-art sleep center.

Each bedroom has a private bathroom with shower, 50-inch flat-screen TV, queen-sized beds lined with feathers, 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton bedding, and a complimentary (non-alcoholic) wet bar. Patients who stay overnight are treated to coffee and pastries the next morning.

South Shore Sleep Diagnostics offers a shuttle service for seniors. Right now its staff is conducting sleep studies in two bedrooms at the Plymouth location, and the plan is to expand to six bedrooms. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house are planned for later this month.

“We wanted to stay away from the institutional approach,’’ said Dr. Anit T. Patel, another medical director at South Shore Sleep Diagnostics. “We realize it’s hard enough to sleep away from your own bed as it is.’’

The Jordan Hospital Sleep Center has five private bedrooms where sleep studies are conducted. They look like hotel rooms. Each is furnished with a large bed, bed stand, reading chair, sink, and a 42-inch flat-screen TV.

Patients can crawl underneath the cream-colored cotton blankets, curl up with the pastel pillows, and read by the bedside lamp or watch cable TV until they fall asleep. Meanwhile, their breathing, brain waves, heart rate, and blood pressure are monitored by sleep technologists in another room.

“It’s really nice, we’re really excited about it,’’ said Dr. Antoine Badlissi, director of Jordan Hospital Sleep Center (www.jordanhospital.org/sleepcenter).

Nationwide, there are approximately 4,000 sleep labs, according to Marketdata Enterprises Inc., an independent research firm. Some are affiliated with hospitals; others are privately owned. Some sleep centers are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine; currently, there are 34 such facilities in Massachusetts.

Sleep centers affiliated with hospitals are regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as satellite clinics. Over two dozen Massachusetts hospitals have DPH-approved sleep labs, the newest being Jordan Hospital’s.

In Plymouth, the two rival sleep labs will diagnose and treat a range of problems, including insomnia, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome.

One of the most common disorders they’ll see is sleep apnea, a chronic condition in which a person periodically stops breathing while he or she sleeps. Sufferers typically snore loudly, and have to gasp for air. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 12 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and more than half of them are overweight.

Sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Luckily, it can be treated. Sleep apnea sufferers can wear a mouthpiece that helps them breathe, or a mask that keeps their airways open. Sales of sleep apnea devices have more than tripled, from $548 million in 2000 to more than $2 billion in 2007, according to Marketdata Enterprises.

Revenue has also surged for sleep centers, as more physicians refer their patients to them, and Medicare payments for sleep studies have grown from $62 million in 2001 to $215 million in 2005.

Kevin Winn is one of millions of Americans who suffer from sleep apnea. At his wife’s behest, the 50-year-old Kingston man finally sought treatment last year. He underwent a sleep study and was taken aback by the results, which showed he was struggling for breath as many as 16 times an hour during the night.

Winn didn’t want to wear a mask hooked up to a machine every night, so he opted for surgery. On Dec. 31, he went to Jordan Hospital, and Dr. Patel performed an operation on his throat.

Winn is pleased with the results.

“I feel fantastic. I’m not waking up at night anymore,’’ he said.

“I didn’t realize how tired I was until I started to sleep well.”

Jordan Hospital will offer a free lecture, “Sleep Well: Identifying and Treating Sleep Disorders,’’ at 6:30 on Feb. 24 at the Plymouth Public Library. E-mail Emily Sweeney at esweeney@globe.com.

$23.7 billion
Estimated size per year of US sleep industry - includes sales of drugs, mattresses, pillows, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) masks, earplugs, eye masks, and other retail sleep aids
SOURCE: Marketdata Enterprises Inc., June 2008
2,556
Number of individual members (physicians, researchers, nurses) of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 1996
9,119
Number of individual members today
SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Number of sleep centers accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
1996 337
1997 374
1998 417
1999 442
2000 502
2001 566
2002 623
2003 692
2004 857
2005 915
2006 1096
2007 1395
2008 1611
2009 1854
SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine