How to Become a Sleep Tech

Sleep technicians help in the process of diagnosing sleep disorders.

Sleep technicians help in the process of diagnosing sleep disorders.

Polysomnographic technologists, more commonly referred to as sleep technicians or sleep techs, play an important role in the diagnosis of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. As a sleep tech, you will prepare patients for sleep studies by setting up specialized medical equipment and then monitor the activity as the patient sleeps.

Understand the nature of the work. If you are interested in a career in sleep science, you probably understand that your job will entail working with patients during, and shortly before and after, their normal sleep time. This means that you will likely work eight to 10 hour overnight shifts. Third shift hours, ironically, can lead to sleep issues and also impact your family and social life. Understand the commitment before you decide to enter this field. Test for narcolepsy and other waking disorders can include daytime sleep studies; however, it is most common to work overnight.

Complete an educational program. Many colleges and trade schools offer certificate, diploma or associate degree programs in polysomnographic technology. Some respiratory therapy programs also offer training in polysomnography. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists accredited programs, and explains that the education typically entails 80 hours of training on sleep, sleep disorders, sleep studies and patient care.

Take a certification exam. If the state in which you wish to be employed requires it, and most do, you will need certification from the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists. This usually requires the completion of an accredited program and three months of clinical experience.

Complete additional trainings as required. Sleep technicians are required to have current CPR certification. Your educational program may or may not provide this certification, so you could have to obtain the training necessary for this certification on your own. Also, certification programs require that you have clinical experience; if your school did not offer an internship program you may need to seek one on your own.

Search and apply for jobs. Sleep technicians can work in a variety of locations including hospitals and independent sleep labs. Professional organizations, such as the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists and the National Sleep Foundation, offer job boards.

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Since 2000 Donna T. Beerman has contributed to newspapers and magazines. Her expertise includes higher education, marketing and social media, and her presentations and writing have won industry awards. She has an MFA in creative writing, is the integrated marketing manager at a Pennsylvania college and founded "Hippocampus Magazine."

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