Vol State Expands Popular Sleep Diagnostics Program to West Tennessee

Submitted on June 28, 2011 at 12:50 PM

You fall asleep during the middle of the day. You nod off frequently while watching TV. It could be habit or it could be a sleep problem. Many people think they can live with the exhaustion, but experts say a sleep disorder can cause life threatening medical conditions. The Sleep Diagnostics program at Volunteer State Community College trains students in the detection methods used in the diagnosis of these disorders. Vol State has one of the very few programs in Tennessee and it's now open to West Tennessee students.

"It's so overlooked. Growing up you hear you need to eat right and exercise. You also need to be able to sleep well," said Mel Matthews, Director of the Sleep Diagnostics Technology Program at Vol State. "A lot of patients wind up with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Sleep apnea can be at the root of it."

The Sleep Diagnostics Technician watches the patient sleep and monitors for things such as how many times the patient wakes up, stops breathing, or has limb movements during the night. Sleep technologists, or polysomnographers also monitor other variables such as sleep stages using electroencephalography, muscle tension with electromyography, eye movements, and blood- oxygen level. The technologist then creates a score of the various measures. That report helps doctors make a diagnosis. Many people think that a sleep study is only to rule out sleep apnea, but the American Sleep Disorders Association has classified 77 separate sleep disorders which are divided into eight major categories.

The Vol State Sleep Diagnostics program is in high demand. The job placement rate for graduates is nearly 100 percent. It's a field that is fast growing, due in part to the increase in obesity, which can be a major cause of sleep disorders. The Vol State program is the oldest fully-accredited school for sleep diagnostics, also called polysomnography, in Tennessee. The accreditation means that students will be qualified to sit for the board exam immediately upon completion of the program. Tennessee passed a new state licensure requirement for polysomnography in 2010. To get a state license, you must be registered, or pass the board exam. In order to sit for the board exam, an applicant must first go through an accredited program or school of polysomnography.

Vol State offers certificate and associate degree programs. The classes are held online, providing for flexibility, especially for working students. Hands-on work is done at clinical sites in West Tennessee.

Matthews says when patients get the help they need the results are amazing. "Sometimes people don't even realize what it's like to get a good night's sleep. It can be very rewarding to realize that your work may help to lengthen lives and provide patients with more energy to be successful in whatever they do".

For more information about the Sleep Diagnostics Technology Program at Vol State call 615-230-3366, e-mail mel.matthews@volstate.edu or visit www.volstate.edu/Sleep

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