Dr. Raman Malhotra and Dr. Joseph Espiritu from the SLUCare Sleep Disorders Center

This article originally appeared in Town & Style magazine.

by tony di martino

William Shakespeare called sleep "the balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, chief nourisher in life's feast." He was right: Sleep is essential to our physical and mental health. But an estimated 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic sleep disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links insufficient sleep to motor vehicle crashes, industrial accidents and occupational errors. Statistically, people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, cancer, and reduced productivity and quality of life.

The sleep medicine specialists at SLUCare Physician Group treat the full range of issues that keep us awake at night. "Among the most common problems are insomnia, sleep apnea, shift work disorders, narcolepsy, sleepwalking and restless leg syndrome," says Dr. Raman Malhotra, assistant professor of neurology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and co-director of SLUCare Physician Group's Sleep Disorders Center.

Many factors can contribute to sleep issues, notes Malhotra, who sees patients at Salus Center on the School of Medicine campus and at the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. "Virtually every system in the body is affected by lack of sleep, so our sleep medicine program integrates a variety of disciplines and specialties," he says. "No matter what the cause, our board-certified experts can evaluate your symptoms and offer the right treatment for your needs." The team includes pulmonologists for breathing problems, neurologists for pain and seizures, psychiatrists for mood disorders and anxiety, endocrinologists for hormonal disturbances, and pediatric sleep specialists. "It's crucial to treat kids early, because the long-term effects of sleep deprivation can be devastating to their academic success," Malhotra adds. "And if kids can't sleep, the parents are probably awake, too, so the entire family suffers."

Most patients can be diagnosed after a thorough medical history and a physical exam. But those with breathing difficulties or movement disorders might require a home sleep study or a night in SLUCare Physician Group's sleep lab. "We attach sensors that measure brain activity, breathing and cardiac function, and we observe patients via infrared video," Malhotra explains. "The information we collect is a valuable diagnostic tool."

The results can be life-changing. "A wife brought in her husband because he kept having episodes of disrupted breathing at night," Malhotra recalls. "He complained of constant fatigue, even though he was only in his 40s, and he never felt like participating in family activities." Sleep medicine specialists treated him for sleep apnea. "Now he looks like a new man, bright-eyed, alert and energetic," Malhotra says. "His productivity at work is way up, and he's planning his first family vacation in years." If you can't sleep, don't try to tough it out, he adds. "We can help you — and you'll be surprised at the difference it makes in your mood, health and well-being."

SLUCare Physician Group Sleep Disorders Center is located at Salus Center, 3545 Lafayette Ave., Ste. 1100. Dr. Raman Malhotra also treats patients at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. For more information, call (314) 977-4440.