Your Health: Local physician confronts sleep disorders |

Your Health: Local physician confronts sleep disorders

Dr. John Lace prescribes a number of treatments for sleep disorders. Some involve complicated machines, but he uses a more traditional approach for himself.

“I have no problem getting to sleep after reading a sleep disorders textbook,” Lace said with a laugh. He recently slogged through a number of stupefying tomes before earning national certification for treating sleep disorders.

Lace’s Grass Valley practice is a common stop for many Nevada County residents with problems catching their Z’s. Nevada County’s aging population – and an increasingly sedentary and overweight populace in all age groups – keeps the practice busy, Lace said.

After patients visit Lace’s practice, he refers most people he suspects of having sleep disorders to Sierra Sleep Diagnostics in Nevada City. The lab opened in 2008 and performs sleep studies on patients. The collaboration – including Lace’s affiliation with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital – means people no longer have to travel to Yuba County for similar services.

“People like the fact that they don’t have to go off the hill for their treatment,” Lace said. “We like to think we offer that small town atmosphere for their treatment.”

Nevada County residents are similar to patients elsewhere, Lace said. If they have trouble sleeping, it’s generally related to sleep apnea. About 80 percent of patients he sees have the disorder, which is characterized by blockages and depressed breathing during sleep.

Sleep disorders can indicate more critical health problems.

Sleep apnea can lead to elevated blood pressure and the ailments that accompany it: heart attack and stroke, Lace said.

Symptoms often include being tired throughout the day; people with sleep apnea may drift in and out of sleep well before bedtime.

The disorder can kick in for men in middle age and for women after menopause.

People who are overweight also have an increased risk of sleep apnea.

“We’re now seeing it in younger and younger patients, because we have an epidemic of obesity in this country,” Lace said.

When checking for sleep apnea, “I basically look for three things with my patients: snoring, a loved one saying that a patient stopped breathing during sleep, and people who are tired throughout the day,” Lace said.

Treatments usually include a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP machine. The contraption is a breathing mask attached to an air pressurizing machine to keep the airway open. It works for an estimated 80 percent of his patients, Lace said.

Another common sleep disorder Lace sees is insomnia, which is a grouping of many disorders and typically caused by stress and poor sleeping practices, he said.

“You can’t force sleep,” Lace said. “People will sometimes spend 11 hours in bed trying to get six hours of sleep. If that’s all the sleep you’re going to get, only spend six and a half hours in bed.”

Having a television in the bedroom also can contribute to insomnia, he added. If left on after one falls asleep, the set’s noise and light can prove disturbing.

When a sleep disorder is treated successfully, Lace said, patients notice a world of difference.

“Most people don’t realize how much sleep they’re missing until they start sleeping regularly again,” Lace said. “Then they’ll have more energy and feel more rested throughout the day.”

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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