The field of sleep medicine is dedicated to diagnosing and treating people who suffer from sleep related disorders. It is a rapidly growing profession that is in great need of trained personnel.
Sleep Technologist Role
A sleep technologist’s role in a sleep disorder center is vital. Sleep technologists assist in the evaluation and follow-up care of patients with sleep disorders. They interact directly with the patient by placing sensors on the patient’s body that allow them to monitor sleep stages, breathing patterns, heart rate and rhythms, limb movements, oxygen levels, and more. To capture this information they use specialized diagnostic monitoring equipment, computers, and software applications.
Types of Diagnostic Tests Performed by Sleep Technologists
Sleep technologist assist board certified sleep medicine physicians with diagnostic tests conducted at sleep centers. This may include in-lab sleep studies, Multiple Sleep Latency Testing (MSLT) and Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing (MWT). Sleep technologists also score sleep tests prior to the physicians interpretation, and assist patients with their home sleep apnea tests.
Diagnostic tests include:
- Diagnostic Polysomnogram (PSG): This sleep study is ordered when the patient is suspected of having a sleep disorder. It provides a good evaluation of the patient’s typical night at home. Therefore, it presents data helpful in diagnosing sleep-related breathing events and other disorders present during sleep.
- Titration: A titration study should be performed after a PSG reveals that the patient has a sleep-related breathing disorder. The technologist fits the patient for an interface (commonly called a mask) that is used to provide continuous (CPAP), bi-level (BPAP), or adaptive positive airway pressure to the patient through the course of the study. The technologist titrates the positive airway pressure throughout the night to establish a pressure to maintain an open airway.
- ASV Titration: This titration study uses Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV) for the purpose of improving respirations in patients with disease states like Complex Sleep Disordered Breathing, Central Apnea (CA), Mixed Apnea or those who suffer with Periodic Breathing, such as Cheyne-Stokes Respiration (CSR). ETCO2 may also be monitored during an ASV Titration study.
- Split: A split study provides an abbreviated diagnostic PSG and an abbreviated titration in the course of one procedure. The study is initiated as a diagnostic study. After a few hours and if clinical criteria is met, the patient is awakened and positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy initiated for the remainder of the study. Clinical criteria necessary to initiate PAP is established by the Medical Director and is commensurate with American Academy of Sleep Medicine standards. Factors included in the clinical criteria include diagnostic sleep time, apnea-hypopnea index, oxygen desaturations and hypoxic dysrhythmias in response to apnea and/or time remaining to titrate PAP levels. If a patient meets criteria, PAP will be initiated changing the diagnostic PSG to a split study even if a diagnostic PSG has been ordered. Since split studies provide a reduced titration time and patients may have difficulty falling asleep after the initiation of PAP, patients may need to return for a full titration study.
- Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT): An MSLT should be used to provide an objective measure of a patient’s tendency to fall asleep and to assist in the diagnosis of narcolepsy or to address complaints of excessive sleepiness in the absence of obvious sleep disorders such as, OSA or parasomnias. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s Practice Parameters for an MSLT state that “polysomnography must be performed immediately before the MSLT” to report factors that may produce false results of the MSLT; such as, quantity and quality of sleep prior to the MSLT and clinical sleep disorders such as OSA, and circadian phase disorder. This test is conducted during the day and entails a series of 5 naps occurring every 120 minutes giving the patient an opportunity to nap for 15-35 minutes.
- Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT): This study is a measurement of the patient’s ability to stay awake for a set period of time. This test is frequently used to test truck drivers, pilots and other transportation professionals whose alertness is related to safety. Like the MSLT, this study is conducted during the day. It consists of 4 naps conducted every 120 minutes during which the patient must try to remain awake for up to 40 minutes.
- Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT): Sleep tests are performed at the patient’s home using a portable device that they initiate. The sleep center provides patient education including operation of the device and on call support technicians assist the patient with questions while at home. HSATs are ordered for patients whose insurance dictates home sleep apnea testing; generally healthy patients without co-morbidities such as morbid obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and pulmonary disease and that are suspected of having sleep disordered breathing versus other sleep disorders.
Review the following organizations for additional resources
To learn more about becoming a Sleep Technologist, visit Prospective Students.
Sleep Deprivation May Increase Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Older Women
November 22, 2017
Older women who don’t get enough sleep were more likely to have poor cardiovascular health, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2017.
Severe Hot Flashes Linked with Greater Risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
November 8, 2017
Many menopausal women complain about poor sleep. Should the problem be blamed simply on menopause or on a more serious underlying sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?
What, if any, is the connection between hot flashes, which can also lead to cardiovascular risk, and OSA?
Clinical Trial to Start for Obstructive Sleep Apnea Pharmaceutical
October 25, 2017
Therapix Biosciences Ltd, a specialty, clinical-stage pharmaceutical company focusing on the development of cannabinoid-based treatments, signed an agreement with Assuta Medical Center to conduct a Phase IIa, sponsor-initiated trial for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) using the company’s proprietary cannabinoid-based technology, THX-OSA01.
What Humans Can Learn From Sleep-Deprived Fruit Flies
October 11, 2017
Research into circadian rhythms offers a reminder: Our bodies are fantastic machines.
Digital Morphometrics Shows Promise as Cost-effective Imaging to Determine Patients’ OSA Risk and Severity
September 27, 2017
Although sex, aging, and obesity are the main factors associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), research has shown that larger tongue, lateral pharyngeal walls, tonsils, soft palate, and total pharyngeal soft tissue volumes can also be considered OSA risks.
Scientists Study Yawning’s Neural Basis to Better Understand Disorders Such as Epilepsy, Dementia, and Autism
September 13, 2017
Even if we aren’t tired, why do we yawn if someone else does? Experts at the University of Nottingham have published research that suggests the human propensity for contagious yawning is triggered automatically by primitive reflexes in the primary motor cortex—an area of the brain responsible for motor function.
NSF: Sleepless Tech Users Sacrifice Sleep Health
August 30, 2017
The National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) latest Sleep Health Index (SHI) finds significant associations between technology use in bed and sleep health. Forty-eight percent of American adults reported using a device like a computer, tablet, or smartphone in bed before trying to go to sleep.
Research Moves Closer to Nocturnal Oximetry-based Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnostic Test for Children
August 16, 2017
Computer analysis of oxygen levels in the blood during sleep could—by itself—provide an easy, relatively inexpensive, and sufficiently reliable way to determine which children who snore habitually could benefit from a diagnosis and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. This approach was most accurate for children with severe apnea.
Can't Sleep? Maybe It's Your Neighborhood
August 2, 2017
Your feelings about your surroundings affect how well you snooze, according to new research.
Interrupted sleep may lead to Alzheimer’s, new studies show
July 19, 2017
Getting a solid night’s sleep is crucial not only for feeling good the next day — there is increasing evidence that it may also protect against dementia, according to new research presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.
First Class of ABMS-Certified Sleep Physicians Heads Back to Test Centers
July 5, 2017
Ten years have passed since sleep became a subspecialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The anniversary also comes during a time of change for maintenance of credential requirements.
Food as Therapy for Narcolepsy Patients
June 21, 2017
Some patients who try a ketogenic diet find symptom relief from the neurological sleep disorder.
Deep Sleep Maintains Brain’s Learning Efficiency
June 7, 2017
Researchers of the University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have demonstrated the causal context of why deep sleep is important to the learning efficiency of the human brain.
Sleep Apnea May Increase Atrial Fibrillation Risk
May 24, 2017
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF). This is according to research presented at the ATS 2017 International Conference.
Insomnia and Sleep Apnea Occur Together More Often Than You Think
May 10, 2017
A recent symposium on comorbid insomnia and sleep apnea presented at the 23rd Congress of the European Sleep Research Society discussed prevalence, treatments, and other clinical implications of what one speaker described as the single most common disorder presenting to sleep centers throughout the world.
AASM SleepTM Select Telemedicine Platform Now Free for AASM-Accredited Sleep Centers
April 26, 2017
he American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) introduces AASM Sleep(TM) Select, a streamlined telemedicine system that enables sleep medicine professionals, accredited sleep centers, and durable medical equipment (DME) providers to rapidly improve patient access to care by integrating secure video visits.
Sleep deficits in autism spectrum disorders and the role of neuroligin gene mutation
April 12, 2017
Despite sleep impairments occurring in all subtypes in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), their causes still remain unclear. Current research explores the role of neuroligin mutations in patients with autism who have trouble sleeping.
Sleep Deprivation Impairs Ability to Interpret Facial Expressions
March 29, 2017
After a rough night’s sleep, your ability to recognize whether those around you are happy or sad could suffer, according to a study led by a University of Arizona psychologist.
Surveying the State of Sleep Science
March 1, 2017
Sleep remains an enduring biological mystery with major clinical relevance. But sleep researchers have made important discoveries about the fundamental chemistry of sleepiness in recent years.
Discovery of Vital Molecule That Regulates Breathing Could Lead to Better Sleep Apnea Treatments
February 15, 2017
Respiratory conditions could be better targeted and treated, thanks to the discovery of the vital molecule which regulates breathing. This is according to research by the University of Warwick.
Documenting the Patient Perspective
February 1, 2017
In 2014, VEDA asked members to assist in a research project by signing onto a patient registry and providing information on their diagnosis experience.
Evaluation of the risk factors of depressive disorders comorbid with obstructive sleep apnea
January 18, 2017
Depressed patients may have potentially life-threatening OSA. Particular attention should be paid to depressive patients who are resistant to treatment, and psychiatrists should consider calling for voluntary OSA screening.
Binocular Vision Correction for the Treatment of Vestibular Symptoms
January 4, 2017
A subtle vision misalignment, when identified with a thorough medical history and treated with aligning lenses, may reduce symptoms for some vestibular patients.
Ménière’s Syndrome or Ménière’s Disease?
December 12, 2016
any patients diagnosed with Ménière’s disease could actually have semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome (SCSC).
AHA Statement: Sleep Disorders May Influence Heart Disease Risk Factors
December 7, 2016
Sleep problems including sleeping too little or too long, may be linked to a variety of factors that may raise the risk for cardiovascular diseases, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement.
Bridging the Gaps for Sleep Apnea Patients
November 23, 2016
Sleep Apnea patients face challenges and there are sometimes preventable misunderstandings and information gaps among patients.