Few people have a more central role in sleep medicine than the sleep tech. What is a sleep technician or sleep technologist? What sort of training is required to become one? Learn about the role of a sleep tech and whether it might be the right job for you.
What Is a Sleep Tech?
A sleep tech is a trained professional who works in a sleep laboratory conducting sleep studies, reviews the results, and creates summary reports that guide the care of patients. The sleep tech, an abbreviation for either technician or technologist, has a central role in performing sleep studies. These may be overnight studies called polysomnograms or even daytime studies like multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT) or maintenance of wakefulness testing (MWT).
Most sleep techs work overnight. They arrive before the patient and prepare for the night’s study. They make sure the necessary equipment is arranged, including the wires as well as the cleaning solution, conduction paste, and adhesive tape. They greet the patients, make them comfortable, and spend about an hour prepping the patient for the study. This is an excellent opportunity to educate the patient about sleep. Once the patient is put to bed, the sleep tech monitors the study to ensure that it is of good technical quality. If the patient needs to get up, the tech will assist. In the morning, the wires are removed and cleaned.
Some sleep techs work during the day. Their job responsibilities may include waking patients who sleep in, conducting daytime sleep studies, or reviewing data. This review is called scoring. It may take several hours to review each polysomnogram. Sleep stages are identified on the electroencephalogram (EEG). Breathing abnormalities such as snoring, hypopneas, and apnea are marked. Leg movements that may occur in periodic limb movement syndrome are counted. These results are summarized in a report that is reviewed and approved by a sleep physician.
How to Become a Sleep Tech
If you are interested in working as a sleep tech, there are many opportunities available. Depending on your location, the required training may vary. Most sleep techs have a high school education but some have specialized technical training. It is a popular profession for people who have experience working as an EEG tech or as a respiratory therapist. Training as a sleep tech may also occur at a college or university, with some programs lasting 2 years. Some training is on the job, under the supervision of experienced personnel. There is a certification examination to become a registered polysomnographic technologist (PSGT).
The salary of sleep techs varies based on location and experience. Most are paid hourly and many receive extra pay for working overnight shifts. In general, sleep techs make a comparable salary to other skilled health care technicians. The average salary in 2012 within the United States was reported to be $48,372.
If you are interested in becoming a sleep tech, start by learning about training programs in your area by contacting a local college or university. If you are interested in a position, you may wish to contact a local sleep center to see if any jobs are available. It is an important and satisfying career for those who have a passion for helping people sleep better.
"Average Polysomnographic Technician Salary Information." Salary.com. Accessed: September 2012.
Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists. Accessed: September 2012.