Polysomnography technicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of
patients suffering from sleep disorders. They're sometimes called sleep
They read and follow medical orders to run various sleep studies. These
technicians find jobs in hospitals and in sleep disorder clinics.
Technicians 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.
Shawn 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."
Technicians test and calibrate equipment and perform troubleshooting when
a machine doesn't work right.
Polysomnography 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.
It'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
In 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.
Overnight 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
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
People 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.