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Polysomnography Technician  What They Do

Just the Facts

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dotPolysomnography technicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from sleep disorders. They're sometimes called sleep technicians.

They read and follow medical orders to run various sleep studies. These technicians find jobs in hospitals and in sleep disorder clinics.

dotTechnicians work with people of all ages, including newborn infants, children, teens, adults and geriatric patients. They must understand the different responses that are typical of each age group.

dotShawn Kimbro is a registered polysomnographic technologist (RPSGT). A technologist is a technician who has passed a certification exam.

Kimbro says sleep technicians use a polysomnograph. This machine converts electrical impulses in the body to a graphical representation on paper. Polysomnograph tracings last throughout the night and can be over a thousand pages long.

"A sleep study monitors many different activities," says Kimbro. "This includes brain waves (EEG), eye movements, muscle activity, heartbeat, breathing and oxygen levels in the blood."

dotTechnicians test and calibrate equipment and perform troubleshooting when a machine doesn't work right.

dotPolysomnography technicians must understand how the cardiopulmonary system works during each sleep stage.

When conducting a sleep study, a technician attaches electrodes to a patient's face, chest, head or arms. The equipment records various data. The technician coordinates readings from several systems according to the sleep stages.

At the end of the test, the technician interprets the information. They determine if there is a sleep disorder, and how severe it might be. Finally, they give this information to the physician.

dotIt's important to have good people skills. You need to communicate well with physicians, patients and other team members.

Technicians document procedures, enter data into a computer and make written reports.

dotIn some clinics, the technician uses medical software that analyzes the data. In other clinics, the technician might analyze the data manually. This requires good math skills.

"Sometimes I have to convert between imperial and metric measurements," says Ron Polischuk. He is a technologist.

dotOvernight work is typical. Sleep technicians conduct tests during a patient's natural sleep cycle. In some clinics, technicians also work day shifts, working with certain patients and analyzing data collected during the previous night's sleep tests.

There are opportunities for promotion. "I am the lab manager now. I work days. You can work your way up if you want," says Laree Fordyce. She is a registered technologist with a sleep institute.

The work offers various opportunities for networking and new learning. "Once a year, I attend a big international meeting," says Fordyce. "And right now I'm participating in a research project."1

dotPeople working in this occupation could be exposed to various chemicals used in a medical setting, as well as to infectious substances in blood.

The job involves movement, such as standing, sitting, bending, crouching, crawling and lifting weights of up to 50 pounds. Good vision is a requirement. The Association of Polysomnography Technologists (APT) says that some employers might make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.

At a Glance

Diagnose and treat sleep disorders

  • Technicians test and calibrate equipment
  • You have to know how the body works in each sleep stage
  • Some employers might require post-secondary training