FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla .– As the country emerges from the pandemic, doctors in South Florida say they are inundated with patients struggling with sleep disorders.
Some people cannot return to a normal sleep schedule after working from home and staying up late. Others gained weight and the airway obstruction worsened. Then there is a group of anxiety, grief or guilt, suffering from what is called coronasomnia.
“The insomnia got worse with the epidemic,” said Dr. Samuel Gurevich, pulmonologist and sleep specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Florida. “Stress and difficulty sleeping go hand in hand. “
In South Florida, the sleep field includes surgeons, pulmonologists, internists and therapists who tackle the barrier to a good night’s sleep through different approaches. As the pandemic attracts more and more patients – desperate to get rid of fatigue – experts are using new innovations to help them sleep better.
These innovations range from medical devices and implanted devices to sleep coaching, intense therapy, acupuncture and hypnosis.
One thing sleep experts all advocate: Ditch sleeping pills.
“You will become dependent and eventually need more and more,” Gurevich said. “When you try to get rid of it, you’ll be worse off than when you started. “
Doctors say they look for medical problems first, including sleep apnea, a condition where breathing disrupts sleep. People no longer need to sleep in laboratories to find out if they have this disease. Most of the time, they can do home tests that monitor breathing and other vital signs.
Dr Brian Gotkin, pulmonologist and sleep specialist at Memorial Healthcare System, says heart problems and weight gain brought on by the pandemic have exacerbated cases of sleep apnea.
“More people were inactive during COVID. They’ve put on weight and it’s affected their snoring and trouble sleeping breathing, and now they’re more tired during the day and need help, ”said Gotkin, who heads Memorial’s sleep lab.
Advances in the CPAP machine used to treat sleep apnea have led to more comfortable breathing masks and smaller travel devices, he said.
One of the newer treatments for obstructive sleep apnea has recently been covered by insurance and health insurance in Florida. It is an FDA approved device that is implanted in the body and controlled by the patient using a small portable remote that is turned on before bedtime.
Sleep surgeons in South Florida have started offering this treatment.
Charles Zeller, an otolaryngologist with the Broward Health Physician Group, said he has already performed three implants this year. He also partnered with doctors at the Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Disorders Institute in South Florida to perform surgery at Broward Health North and treat patients for follow-up in Palm Beach County.
“We are trying to help the huge upsurge in Jupiter patients who just cannot find a good treatment solution for their sleep apnea,” Zeller said.
For chronic insomnia, South Florida sleep coaches say they’re stuck with patients who need help retraining their bodies and minds to shut down after multiple stressors caused by the pandemic. Some are arriving after primary care doctors refuse to refill their sleeping pills prescriptions, coaches say.
“With insomnia, there is an event that triggers, in this case, the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Bonet, Hollywood sleep therapist. “Then you get into the bad habit of sleeping badly and then worrying about your bad night’s sleep, which makes it worse. I now train a lot of people who have realized that their problem is fixable. “
Bonet said that coaching combined with hypnosis takes around 10 to 12 weeks to resolve sleep issues.
Dr Brian Gotkin watches June 11 as Yanet Obarrio Sanchez, director of corporate communications, has a device to monitor brain waves and frontal lobe during sleep placed on his temples by sleep technician Irlene Jean-Paul , as they model the procedure for a sleep study at Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood, Florida.