Sleep disorder training shorted

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 24, 2006

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Medical students generally receive only four hours of instruction in sleep medicine, an amount woefully inadequate to cover disorders that affect 50 million to 70 million Americans, according to a report released April 4 by the Institute of Medicine.

The report identified sleep disorders as chronic insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. "Although sleep research and care for individuals with sleep disorders have expanded over the past several years, we currently don't have the capacity to adequately diagnose and treat all who suffer from these problems," said Harvey Colten, MD, former vice president and senior associate dean for academic affairs at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. Colten was chair of the committee, which was composed primarily of physicians who issued the report.

Instruction in sleep medicine should be part of undergraduate and postgraduate training for those pursuing health care careers, particularly those specializing in psychiatry, pulmonology, neurology, nursing, psychology and other specialties involved in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, the report said. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the National Sleep Foundation and the Sleep Research Society co-sponsored the report.

Meanwhile, in a study published in the April 15 American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, patients with severe sleep-disordered breathing -- those who stopped breathing for 10 seconds or longer at a time -- were found to be two to four times more likely to experience complex, abnormal heart rhythms while sleeping than individuals without the problem.

The stoppages decrease the amount of oxygen and increase the level of carbon dioxide in the blood and brain.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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