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Fri, Jan. 24

Untreated sleep apnea increases car wreck risk

Dear Dr. Rosenberg:

Is it true that someone with sleep apnea is more likely to have a motor vehicle accident than others? My son has sleep apnea and refuses to get treated. He and his wife just had their first child, so I am concerned. Should I be?

A: Yes, you should. The incidence of motor vehicle accidents in men with sleep apnea is three times the risk of others. Interestingly, it is less than that in women with sleep apnea. We don't know if this is because of a male instinct to ignore potentially dangerous sleepiness, or an actual difference in sexes in relation to resistance to a loss of driving skills as a consequence of sleep apnea.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg:

My 12-year-old son complains of "funny feelings" in his legs. At night he has a hard time falling asleep because of this. My husband and I think it sounds like restless legs syndrome, but doesn't that affect older people? My healthcare provider said it is not normally seen in children. What do you think?

A: Unfortunately, that is common misconception. As it turns out, it is not uncommon in children. In a recent survey, 20 percent of all adult respondents with the disorder stated that it had started between the ages of 11 and 19. In many cases, they had been misdiagnosed with growing pains or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). If untreated, it can lead to sleep deprivation, depression and anxiety.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg:

I am pregnant with my third child. I developed severe restless legs syndrome during my third trimester, and I don't feel comfortable taking medications while I am pregnant. Is there anything else that I can do? It really drives me crazy.

A: There are several options that do not require medications. First, are you taking iron supplements? Low iron can cause restless legs syndrome (RLS) during pregnancy. Reducing caffeine intake, massaging the legs, and wearing supportive stockings in bed may also be beneficial. Anecdotal reports by women who have RLS suggest that stretching exercises in the evening are helpful, as is a warm bath before bed. Some patients who have RLS also find taking a calcium/magnesium supplement at night alleviates symptoms.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg:

I have been taking the drug modafinil for excessive sleepiness for several years. A friend of mine is taking a medication called armodafinil for the same thing. What are the differences?

A: Armodafinil (nuvigil) is very similar; however, it has a much longer duration of action - 15 hours as opposed to eight hours. Therefore, it can be taken once a day and at lower doses than modafinil (provigil). Other than that convenience, there are few differences.

Dr. Robert Rosenberg, board-certified sleep medicine specialist, will answer readers' questions by incorporating them in future columns. Contact him at askthesleepdoc@yahoo.com or via mail at the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, 3259 N. Windsong Dr., Prescott Valley, AZ 86314.

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