Sleep is an extremely important key to maintaining good health. For those who have difficulty getting nighttime rest, testing for sleep disorders may be a possible way to remedy the problem. Healthcare workers interested in this field can find employment in sleep technologist jobs, where they can assist these patients in diagnosing sleep disorders. There are several types of polysomnography jobs, each with their own skill levels. A certification may be available for higher level positions.
The American Association of Sleep Technologists, or AAST, in the US recognizes three distinct classes of sleep technologist jobs. The first, sleep trainee, is an apprenticeship position where the trainee learns the basic procedures of the job. A trainee may advance to a sleep technician position, where responsibilities are a bit broader in terms of testing and supervising trainees is common. Lastly, the registered sleep technologist answers to the clinical director, who is typically a medical doctor certified in sleep disorders, and participates in diagnosis, treatment and education of patients.
Patients come to the sleep lab and are hooked up to sensors that monitor their bodily activity during sleep. One of the most risky problems is sleep apnea, where the sufferer actually stops breathing during sleep. This leads to heavy snoring and awakening repeatedly, not always fully, which precludes a restful night. The sleep technologist must maintain a close watch on the patient’s vitals, and will assist patients using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines for apnea. First aid certification is usually a requirement for technicians, especially CPR.
Some of the tests administered in sleep technologist jobs include a polysomnogram, which measures a patient’s heart rate, breathing, muscle movements and other bodily functions during sleep. The Multiple Sleep Latency test (MSLT) and Maintenance of Wakefulness test (MWT) show how fast a person falls asleep and whether they remain awake during normal daily hours. The tests are usually administered when the patient normally would sleep, which means an overnight shift. Sleep technologists then record the results and write a report that is given to the clinician.
Many sleep technologist jobs are in hospitals or specialized sleep clinics. Doctors interested in the field can become board certified in treating sleep disorders through specialized training. Some sleep technologist jobs require prior medical experience and some do not, although registered sleep technologists must pass a rigorous national exam.