Local doctor spreads knowledge on sleep

Local doctor spreads knowledge on sleep

January 3rd, 2010 by Emily Bregel in Health

A local sleep specialist hopes to help doctors and residents in India wake up to the severe consequences of sleeping disorders.

"There is a huge lack of awareness about sleep disorders" in India, said Dr. Anuj Chandra, director of the Advanced Centers for Sleep Disorders on East Brainerd Road.

Although U.S. awareness of the "ravages" of sleeping disorders grew significantly in the 1990s, "in India we are at least 10 years behind in terms of screening and treatment measures," he said.

As part of a sleep training course held in India earlier this month, Dr. Chandra traveled to his native New Delhi to help educate doctors there on research and treatment advances in sleep medicine.

In all of India, a nation of 1 billion people, there are only about 100 sleep centers, Dr. Chandra said. In Tennessee there are at least 50, he said.

Sleeping disorders are prevalent in India in part because of its growing economy and the proliferation of 24-hour call centers, he said.

Dr. Vince Viscomi, local sleep specialist, praised Dr. Chandra's work in India, where he said poverty and lack of treatment for many kinds of illness are widespread.

"It's such a daunting task. The whole system, everyone needs help," Dr. Viscomi said.

The sleep course that Dr. Chandra participated in has been held annually in India since 2006, and attendance has grown from 50 participants to about 200 this year, according to a news release.

Course coordinator Dr. Deepak Shrivastava, professor of medicine at the University of California Davis School of Medicine, said the sleep course is making inroads in sleep medicine in India.

"There is now much more awareness and recognition among doctors and the public," he said in the release.

New research has highlighted the prevalence of sleep apnea in India, a condition in which airway obstructions lead to repeated stoppage of breathing at night, causing disrupted sleep, Dr. Chandra said.

But unlike in the United States, where obesity is often behind a diagnosis of sleep apnea, obesity is less common in India, Dr. Chandra said. Instead, anatomical factors such as the size of the nasal passageway appear to put those of Indian descent at risk for blockages in the airway, Dr. Chandra said.

A study published in 2006 in the journal Chest found that the prevalence for sleep apnea in India is similar to that in the West.

"It was a mind-blowing piece of evidence because so far we talked about Asian societies are protected (from sleep apnea) because there's not this obesity epidemic," he said.


* 18 million American adults have sleep apnea

* 10 to 15 percent of adults say they have chronic insomnia

* 33 percent have lost sleep over the economy

* 1.9 million drivers have had a car crash or a near-miss due to drowsiness in the past year

Source: National Sleep Foundation