Can't Get a Good Night's Rest? Sleep Center in NJ Offers Answers

The Center for Sleep Disorders at Clara Maass Medical Center solves serious sleep problems.

Pooja Raju, MD
Pooja Raju, MD

“Many of our patients come to us with the same symptoms,” says Pooja Raju, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at Clara Maass Medical Center (CMMC) and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group. “They have excessive daytime sleepiness. They wake up with headaches. They can’t function during the day because of tiredness. And in most cases, they’ve suffered for years before coming to be treated.”

Most adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for health and well-being, but more than a third don’t get that much, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Lack of sleep can be a contributing cause to serious health conditions, Dr. Raju says.

“Many conditions have sleep disorders as an underlying contributing factor, including pulmonary diseases, congestive heart failure, heart attacks and strokes,” she explains.

Interrupted Breathing

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most prevalent disorder treated at the Center for Sleep Disorders, Dr. Raju says. In OSA, the muscles of the airway relax and obstruct air flow during sleep. Symptoms include loud snoring and periods of breathing cessation and multiple awakenings. Because OSA causes sudden drops in blood oxygen, it can strain the cardiovascular system and increase the risk of heart disease.

OSA is commonly associated with excess weight and high blood pressure, but it is also linked to chronic nasal congestion, naturally narrow airways or asthma.

Other common disorders include insomnia, which prevents sleep; narcolepsy, which causes sudden sleep attacks during the day; restless leg syndrome, which is characterized by a powerful urge to move the legs when sitting or lying down; and sleepwalking.

Life-Changing Treatment

Patients who come to the Center for Sleep Disorders are given a comprehensive sleep and health history. If a disorder is suspected, sleep tests are ordered. For some disorders, such as OSA, a sleep monitor is sent home with the patient and is returned for interpretation the next day. Tests for other conditions, such as narcolepsy and behavioral disorders in sleep, may be performed in the lab, where brain waves, sudden sleep episodes and body movements are monitored.

Treatments for sleep problems are as varied as the disorders. For OSA, patients are prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device to keep passages open. In other cases, patients may be referred to a sleep psychologist, who may employ cognitive behavioral therapy, which addresses misconceptions about sleep as well as behaviors related to it.

Dental devices that readjust jaw position to help open air passages may be prescribed, and in rare cases, surgery may be performed.

“Treatment makes a big difference in a patient’s life. After years of suffering, they can get a good night’s sleep. They don’t fall asleep in meetings during the day and are able to spend more time with their loved ones,” says Dr. Raju.

The Center for Sleep Disorders at CMMC is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

To learn more about the Center for Sleep Disorders at Clara Maass Medical Center, call 973-450-2444.