As of 2013, some 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sleep disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health. While some sleep issues may be merely annoying, others can be life-threatening. The healthcare professionals who are trained to study and evaluate patients who have problems sleeping are called sleep or polysomnographic technologists
Types of Sleep Disorders
The four most common types of sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy, according to the National Institutes of Health. Sleep technologists may address more than 70 types of sleep disorders. Sleep disorders affect patients mentally and physically, interfering with work, the ability to drive, and physical and social activities.
The work of a sleep technologist is done under the supervision of a physician. Sleep technologists review a patient’s medical history and check their vital signs. As the patient sleeps, they monitor equipment that reads brain activity, eye movement, breathing and the heart to diagnose patients’ sleeping disorders. They record the patient’s sleep patterns and respond to potential emergencies. Sleep technologists report their findings to the patient’s physician and recommend treatment plans to promote more effective sleeping habits.
Training and Credentialing
A variety of training programs to become a sleep technologist are accredited by organizations such as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied health Education. Training programs last from six months to four years, depending on your interests. Most employers require graduating from an accredited training program resulting in a diploma or certificate of completion. Credentialing requirements include at least 18 months of professional experience, graduating from an accredited training program and passing an exam.
Sleep technologists often work during evening and early morning hours, when people typically sleep. They work in a laboratory environment referred to as a sleep center or sleep lab. Sleep laboratories often operate independently, while others are located in hospitals, research facilities or universities. Patients are referred to sleep centers if a doctor cannot treat or manage their sleep disorder.
A 2010 survey administered by Advance for Respiratory Care and Sleep Medicine reported an average salary of $47,660 per year for sleep technicians and technologists. Credentials such as the Registered Polysomnographic Technologists or the Certified Polysomnographic Technician can increase job opportunities and salaries.
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