Barbara Britt has two kids, a husband and a mother in need of care, so when this working mom started getting sleepy during the day, she blamed it on her busy lifestyle. It wasn’t until the 37-year-old’s husband told her “something’s just not right with you,” that she began to reassess.
“He said, ‘you snore a lot and stop breathing while you’re sleeping,’ but I felt like my sleeping patterns were just fine,” Britt recalled. “My doctor begged to differ and thought a sleep study would confirm I had sleep apnea.” Following an in-depth, one-on-one evaluation at Mercy Sleep Center – Lebanon, Britt was quickly scheduled for an overnight stay.
“It was a very comfortable, bedroom-like environment with a TV and amenities,” said Britt, who was closely monitored by a sleep tech during her stay. “I went to bed at 10 p.m. and woke up at 4 a.m. They said that in just one 60-minute timeframe, I had 60 episodes where I wasn’t breathing.”
Data analyzed by Mercy’s board-certified sleep physician confirmed her obstructive sleep apnea, and the rest is history. “I’ve been using the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device every night for a few years now and it’s made a huge improvement in my life. I go back every six months for a checkup and sometimes they adjust the pressure accordingly.”
“We’re very proud of our patient tracking and continuity of care,” said Gerry Hoke Nutter, director of the sleep lab, which just marked 11 years of operation. “Someone who comes in for sleep apnea, like Barbara, is put into a secure database so they can be monitored for an extended period of time. Without this kind of system, patients could fall off the radar. It’s a vital tool.”
The creation of that database helped Mercy Sleep Center – Lebanon earn accreditation by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), an honor reflecting the center’s accountability and commitment to ensuring the highest quality of care. “We’ve been dedicated to that mission since we were a two-bed department within the main hospital,” Nutter recalled. “We grew so quickly that after only a few years, Mercy provided a new facility, doubling our size and staff.”
Mercy Sleep Center – Lebanon, now located at 1234 Deadra Drive, is staffed by three registered sleep technologists, two sleep technicians, two clerical staff members and a part-time licensed practical nurse. The facility was specially designed to house four beds and a hospitality room, free for patients’ caregivers. Dr. John Brabson, board certified in sleep medicine, serves as the center’s medical director; he and three nurse practitioners travel weekly for clinical appointments. The center sees more than 85 patients a month within a 45-mile radius.
“We’re seeing more seriously ill patients, including those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or heart issues,” Nutter added. “If someone has excessive daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity, these symptoms factor in with obstructive sleep apnea.”
Mercy Sleep Center – Lebanon can also perform a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) for excessive sleepiness, as well as a Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT) to measure alertness. Rest assured, it’s not as intimidating as you’d think. “We have great feedback from patients that the whole process has been explained well,” Nutter said. “The more they know, the better understanding they have of the whole picture.”
Physicians must refer patients for a sleep study to diagnose a particular issue. “Sleep apnea is becoming better understood by the general public,” Nutter said. “Our mission here is to make it even clearer so that people can be aware of their symptoms and we can be proactive on getting them treatment.”
“I’m more clear-headed now,” Britt said. “Now I’m focused on the quality – not quantity – of sleep I get. And my husband is sleeping much better, too.”