News Release

February 23, 2004

Contact: Maureen McGuire, 860-679-4523

UConn Health Center Expands Sleep Study Center

Farmington, Conn. - Feeling sleepy? You’re not alone. Several studies suggest that most Americans do not get enough sleep.

And this is not something to take lightly. Sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, negative moods, and safety issues in the home, on the job and on the road.

To help more people who suffer from sleep disorders, the University of Connecticut Health Center has expanded its capacity to conduct sleep studies.

“A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is a critical tool to uncover the root causes of sleep problems or daytime sleepiness,” said Daniel McNally, M.D., a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine. Dr. McNally is director of UConn’s Sleep Disorders Center, which brings together experts from specialties including pulmonary medicine, dentistry, neurology, psychiatry and ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery.

UConn’s Sleep Disorders Center uses state-of-the-art equipment to help patients identify and treat a variety of sleep disorders. The sleep study uses nocturnal polysomnography, a tool used while patients are sleeping, to measure a variety of activities, such as brain activity, eye movement, muscle activity, air movement, breathing, and more.

“The sleep lab generates data about each individual’s architecture of sleep,” Dr. McNally said, noting that a normal sleep pattern involves alternating stages of sleep throughout the night, including deep sleep and dream sleep, which is marked by rapid eye movement (REM).

Dr. McNally analyzes data gathered by each study to determine the genesis of an individual’s sleeping problem. Some common sleep disorders include: sleep apnea, narcolepsy, sleep walking, insomnia, REM behavioral disorder, periodic limb movement, teeth grinding and circadian rhythm disorders. Of these, insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are the two most common serious sleep disorders. “However, many patients have milder problems of inadequate sleep time or poor sleep habits that may lead to daytime sleepiness, but can be improved,” Dr. McNally said.

“Insomnia is best treated through a variety of lifestyle changes as well as changes in the habits and patterns of sleep to restore a person’s natural ability to sleep well,” Dr. McNally said. He does not recommend sleeping pills or products designed to take at bedtime.

Rather, he advocates a variety of lifestyle and behavioral modifications to treat insomnia. For example, Dr. McNally advises patients to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Caffeine makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Alcohol may put you right to sleep, but later in the night, your sleep will be disrupted. He also advises against eating, reading, watching TV or playing with pets in the bedroom.

“The sleep environment is very important - as is the quality and quantity of sleep every night,” Dr. McNally added.

Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing that obstruct normal airflow. These breathing pauses can disrupt sleep throughout the night. In extreme cases, patients can be aroused dozens of times per hour. And while patients are not typically aware of every disruption, they feel the effects the following day with marked daytime sleepiness.

Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea also include lifestyle changes - such as quitting smoking and eliminating alcohol intake, exercise and caffeine before bedtime. Many patients respond well to the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask that blows air into the throat.

Signs and symptoms of serious sleep disorders may include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Depression or reduced sense of well-being
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Leg cramps or continuous, uncontrollable urge to move legs
  • Anxiety or difficulty learning or concentrating
  • High blood pressure
  • Awakening with a choking feeling or gasping for air
  • Racing heartbeat during the night

“I strongly recommend having a frank discussion with your physician if you experience any of these symptoms. A sleep study may be recommended,” Dr. McNally added.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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