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UNC Charlotte Teams Up With UNC-Chapel Hill For New Degree Program


Nearly one-third of American workers get fewer than six hours of sleep a night. That's according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And with increasing attention to disorders, especially sleep apnea, the number of sleep centers across the country has increased. In response, UNC Charlotte and UNC-Chapel Hill have teamed up to offer an online degree in neurodiagnostics and sleep science. The schools tout it as the first bachelor's program of its kind in the country. Yvette Huet, interim chair of the department of Kinesiology at UNC Charlotte, explains more about the degree. HUET: The students that apply to the program have an associate's degree already. They also have to be registered electroencephalographic and polysomnographic technicans to apply for the program. So, they have a two-year degree plus they've been working and they're registered with these different associations. MCFADYEN: Now those big words you just used, basically just sleep technicians? HUET: Basically. They're the ones that can take your neurological information and other information about sleep and be able to pass that along to the physician. They're part of the team that determines how well you're sleeping. MCFADYEN: The program begins this fall? HUET: That's right it was just approved at the April meeting of the board of governors. MCFADYEN: How many students are enrolled? HUET: The plan is to have 15 students each year. However, I have to admit we have had a huge number of people interested in the program. In order to expand beyond that 15 we would have to have more faculty available. MCFADYEN: Tell us about how some of the courses work. It's all online, right? HUET: It is primarily online. So, the basic coursework is all distance education. The students have to do a practicum, and also an internship that is at a hospital or a sleep center doing practical work. So, they come in, and they have a project they are working on with the physicians at that particular center. MCFADYEN: Why do you think it's only happening now in 2012 that we're just getting a bachelor's program to study sleep? HUET: The number of sleep centers that have stared over the past 20 years has increased significantly. Especially over the past five, six, seven years. The number of people that are needed to work in those centers has also increased. I think our understanding of the effects of sleeplessness as well as poor sleep has really driven folks to try to understand what ends up happening if we don't sleep well, and also to come in and be tested for that. And we also understand now there are different things we can do to help people who snore, and who have sleep apnea and a variety of difficulties sleeping. Probably when I was growing up 40 years ago, I don't think that people really understood that when you had a lack of sleep, people really realized that it affected your ability to concentrate, your mood, your ability to respond to bacterial infections, etcetera, so I think that as we understand more about how sleep affects our normal physiology, we really have to be able to help treat people that are having problems with sleep.