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Sleep Disorders

Insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, REM behavior disorder, narcolepsy, snoring and more: Sleep disorders prevent millions of Americans from getting a full night of restful, restorative sleep each night.

As one of the largest multidisciplinary sleep centers in the nation, the Washington University Sleep Medicine Center has the advantage of working with first-class physicians involved in both patient care and cutting-edge research, many of whom are recognized in Best Doctors in America and America's Top Doctors.

Understanding Sleep Disorders

The inability to get a good night’s sleep is often overlooked or attributed to stress, anxiety or other conditions. But restful sleep is an essential part of good health, and sleep problems can have a serious impact on the quality of life.

Sleep Apnea

This is a serious disorder in which breathing is repeatedly stopped for a short period, then resumed after a brief awakening. The cycle can repeat hundreds of times a night. Common symptoms include loud habitual snoring and daytime sleepiness. If untreated, sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and kidney disease.


This condition that causes daytime sleepiness. It usually is associated with cataplexy (sudden weakness or paralysis with laughter or anger) and by sleep paralysis (a brief feeling of paralysis at sleep onset or upon awakening).

Periodic Limb Movement Syndrome

Periodic Limb Movement Syndrome is a disorder which involves rhythmic jerking of the feet, knees or hips. The movements cause frequent awakenings and prevent restful sleep.


This is a condition in which falling asleep or maintaining sleep is difficult or impossible. It can stem from many causes, including depression, poor sleep habits, stress and physical discomfort.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Patients restless leg syndrome report a "creepy-crawly" sensation in the legs brought on by relaxation. The syndrome often leads to insomnia.

Sleepwalking, bed wetting and REM sleep behavior disorder are unusual behaviors that occur during sleep. These disorders can lead to accidental injury, embarrassment or serious adjustment problems.

Possible symptoms of sleep disorders include:

  • Habitual loud snoring, especially when associated with pauses or snorting noises
  • Frequent brief choking or awakening gasping or short of breath
  • Awakening with a headache
  • Persistent sleepiness when awake or episodes of falling asleep unintentionally
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Persistent difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • An urge to keep moving legs at bedtime or rhythmic twitching of the legs after falling asleep
  • Unusual behaviors during sleep such as sleepwalking

Testing for Sleep Disorders

People from all over the country travel to Barnes-Jewish Hospital to be cared for by Washington University sleep specialists at the Sleep Medicine Center. We provide rapid diagnosis and effective treatment designed to restore restful sleep as quickly as possible. Our center also offers the convenience and privacy of a hotel setting.

A "sleep study," called a polysomnogram, is a painless overnight test to monitor sleep patterns, breathing and other functions. This common test is typically performed overnight at the center or in the patient’s home. Results are available quickly.

Patients being tested at the center will be asked to arrive at their usual sleep time to spend the night in a private room with a television and VCR. While the patient sleeps, breathing patterns, sleep quality and other physiological parameters are monitored.

Registered polysomnographic technologists, registered respiratory therapists and registered nurses are present to assist patients and initiate treatments during the sleep study when indicated.

After appropriate testing is performed, the physician or nurse will discuss the test results and treatment options. Treatments vary widely according to the diagnosis.

Treatment options for sleep apnea include CPAP (a device that improves breathing during sleep), surgery, weight loss, change of sleeping position, dental appliances and medication.

Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) is an outpatient treatment for snoring. The procedure involves removing the uvula and trimming the soft palate. LAUP has been shown to be a very safe and effective treatment for snoring. It takes about 30 minutes and is performed with local anesthesia. In more than 90 percent of the cases, snoring is eliminated or significantly reduced after one session. Patients can immediately resume normal activity after surgery. Further improvement occurs with healing after the surgery.

The Sleep Medicine Center is an Accredited Member Center of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). The AASM provides a gold standard by which other organizations and companies evaluate sleep programs, assuring quality patient care through comprehensive clinical evaluation and treatment.

Patients can be either physician-referred or self-referred depending on their health insurance plan.  For a referral to a Washington University neurologist or neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.

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#17 in the Nation by U.S. News & World Report

Find a doctor or make an appointment: 866.867.3627
General Information: 314.747.3000
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St. Louis, MO 63110
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