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What is Polysomnography?

Polysomnography is the test used to diagnose and treat sleep disorders.  It provides a comprehensive assessment of a patient’s sleep including the effects of various medications, the structure of their sleep, physical and psychological ailments, and the presence of any sleep disturbances.  Data is collected from specialized sensors and electrodes to measure a multitude of physiological parameters such as respirations, brain wave patterns, cardiac rhythms, limb movements and eye movements.  This information is analyzed by both the technologist and the physician to treat and diagnose sleep disorders.

Job Responsibilities

A polysomnographic technologist is responsible for conducting and analyzing polysomnographic studies. Since the field encompasses so many different aspects of human physiology, the technologist must possess a diverse array of knowledge and skills. With patient safety as a main priority, technologists are responsible for recognizing emergency situations through patient monitoring and responding appropriate to such instances.

Technologists who perform and analyze polysomnographic studies must have adequate knowledge of normal sleep and sleep disorders, as well as possess skills in all aspects of sleep laboratory methodology.  This includes, but is not limited to, patient monitoring and counseling, instrumentation, electrode application, artifact recognition and troubleshooting, positive airway pressure titrations, multiple sleep latency testing, and assisting in the interpretation of collected data.

Career Opportunities

There are only about 17,000 registered technologists worldwide to fill positions in this rapidly expanding field. Employment opportunities are abundant and expected to continue to grow in the coming years.  Technologists can work in clinical sleep centers or research facilities.  Sleep centers can be located in hospitals or they can be free-standing facilities directed by a board certified sleep physician.

With experience and education, a technologist can be promoted to a supervisor position where they will be responsible for the direction of other team members.  Most sleep centers will have additional positions such as a clinical coordinator, who oversees all technical matters.

Working Environment

Most technologists work on a third shift schedule, usually on a twelve hour shift.  Weekends are sometimes required, but working on holidays is rare.  Day shift opportunities are available, as well, where the technologist is usually required to work an eight hour day, five days a week. 

Salaries

Salary varies with education, credentials, years of experience, geographic location, and level of responsibility.  Beginning salaries for graduates in the local area is approximately $35,000/year.  Earning potential after one year of experience and earning the RPSGT credential increases to approximately $40,000/year.