Polysomnographic technicians monitor the activity of adults and pediatric patients as they undergo sleep study testing, called polysomnographs. Sleep study results can be used by physicians to diagnose disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless legs symdome. Once diagnosed, an effective course of treatment can begin, often having a major impact on a patient’s quality of life. The technician works under the supervision of a polysomnographic technologist or clinical director, and conducts a variety of tasks in preparing patients for a sleep study and performing the testing. Before the study, the technician takes a thorough patient history, explains the procedure to the patient, and applies electrodes and sensors to measure heart rate, respirations and brain activity during sleep. During the study, they observe patients, collect data and summarize information for the physician. Technicians also perform therapeutic interventions such a continuous or bi-level positive airway pressure and oxygen administration.
- Hospital-based sleep study center
- Independent sleep center
- Sleep research center
Because sleep studies must take place during a patient’s normal sleeping hours, polysomnographic technicians most often work at night. They must comply with all applicable laws, guidelines and standards of safety and infection control. The work schedule would most commonly involve evening and night hours, and may be variable depending on test scheduling.
Hospital sleep labs offer the greatest career opportunities for polysomnographic technicians. Those who seek additional training and certification will have the best employment outlook.
- Ability to work with a variety of people
- Ability to follow instructions carefully and do routine tasks
- Ability to communicate with staff and follow written and spoken directions
- Ability to instruct clients to assure good cooperation in carrying out studies
- Ability to learn principles and techniques related to sleep study testing
- Ability to score, assess, and adjust studies to provide the best test results
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
A 2-year associate degree is preferred or certification added to respiratory care or nursing. Education training may range in length from 6 months to 2 years, depending on whether the student is adding this credential or going through a basic program to become a polysomnographic technician.
Professional certification may not be required by all employers. However, the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists does offer a certification examination that can increase career opportunities. With some additional training and certification, polysomnographic technicians may advance to polysomnographic technologist or transition into other medical fields, including EEG and MRI technology – both fields that make use of technologist and skills that are familiar to polysomnographers.
Programs in Nebraska
- Southeast Community College – Lincoln (Certificate – online)
Related / Links
Other careers that use similar technologies, use technology in diagnostic testing, or have similar educational requirements:
- Cardiac or vascular sonographer
- Clinical laboratory technician
- Licensed practical nurse
- Occupational therapy assistant
- Physical therapy assistant
- Respiratory therapist
For information about careers in sleep medicine and certification:
- American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST)
- The American Academy of Sleep Medicine
- Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists
Career information adapted, in part, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists.