Donna Lovitt, RRT-SDS, RPSGT, RST joined the exciting practice of polysomnography in 1992 and considers it a pleasure to be a part of a profession that tests, counsels and shares information concerning sleep disorders. She received her basic training from the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and states that she has encountered at least 51 of the 79 sleep disorders that are diagnosed and treated. Donna is currently employed by HCA at the Centennial Sleep Disorder Center in Nashville, Tennessee. She also serves on the Tennessee State Board of Polysomnographic Technologists, is an active volunteer for sleep disorder information, and an active member of the Tennessee Sleep Society, Kentucky Sleep Society and American Association of Sleep Technologists. Donna attended John A. Gupton College where she received an Associate of Arts in Mortuary Science, and the Thomas Aquinas, Vanderbilt Allied Health Respiratory Care Program where she received an Associate of Science degree.

Q: I have heard that naps are good for you. Is that true?

A: Yes, naps can be good for you if your NAP is 15 to 30 minutes. If your NAP is 1 to 2 hours then it is not a NAP. That becomes a full sleep cycle that can disturb your body’s natural sleep cycle. For example, if you NAP for two hours in the afternoon then you may not be able to get to sleep when bedtime arrives because this afternoon sleep has fragmented your sleep cycle. NAPS that are 15 to 30 minutes can often help rejuvenate the body and boost energy. There are several companies exploring the NAP concept to boost productivity in the last half of the work cycle.

Q: What are the most common sleep disorders that you see in your practice?

A: There are a plethora of sleep disorders seen at the Centennial Sleep Disorder Center where I am responsible for testing and sharing sleep education and information with the patients and public. Sleep hygiene is the most common disorder we see. Our society has turned bedrooms into TV and media rooms, computer rooms and reading rooms – anything but sleeping rooms. Bedrooms should
really only be used for sleeping. And we often need to prepare ourselves for sleep. It also helps if you can stay on a bedtime schedule and a wakening schedule. We need 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep in a 24 hour cycle every night or day if you are a night shift worker. If we cheat sleep it will ultimately affect our health and wellness. It’s also important to remember that children and teens need more sleep than adults. The National Sleep Foundation is an excellent sleep resource for the various age groups. You should also consult your physician or a physician that is board-certified in sleep medicine.

The second most common sleep disorder is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. When someone in the family snores, can’t sleep well, or chokes and snorts most of the night, it affects the entire family. Often I have a patient that presents with snoring but says that he or she is down the hall from everyone else and knows that no one else hears them snore. However, in most cases, everyone hears including the dog and the neighbors.

Attempting to survive with daytime sleepiness, reduced productivity and mood disorder is no way to live. OSA also decreases the function of your other body systems and organs. However, there are several
different treatments for OSA depending on the severity and the decision that you and your physician think is the best for you. Treated OSA can not only help lead to a longer life and but also help increase the quality of life.

Q: If you lose sleep one night but make up for it by sleeping longer the next, does that cancel out?

A: When you lose sleep there is no canceling out. Studies have proven that we can somewhat “catch up” for no more than one to two nights of a small sleep deficit. This does not mean that you can only sleep four to five hours for a week and then catch up on the weekend. While this is what numerous people try, it simply does not work. You end up moody and sleepy during the week and wake with sleep confusion or sleep fog on the weekend. Therefore you are not actually making up for the sleep loss.

Our bodies run on a circadian rhythm of life. In a 25-hour cycle, we grow, heal from illness, release hormones, and age, and we should sleep one-third of the cycle for those processes to happen. In the
profession of sleep, we consider the sleep debt to be a national emergency. Billions of dollars and lives are lost from sleepy people who think they can “beat the sleep debt”. Take a lesson from your children concerning the sleep debt. Children get fussy, cranky, and do not perform well when they don’t sleep well. Adults are much the same, and sometimes like children, we fail to admit or just do not want to
admit that we need that seven to eight hours of peaceful, restful, and refreshing hours of sleep. We find time for the important things that we want to do in life. Make good sleep one of those goals, and your
life will be blessed.

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