There were so many wires, I wondered how I would ever get to sleep. I was also curious about how the individual attaching them to me knew where each needed to go to transmit data during my sleep study. Being a sleep technician is a great career for those who don’t mind working at night. However, it requires very specific education and training.
What is a Sleep Technician?
A sleep technician is an individual who watches people who are the subjects of sleep studies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, another name for the same occupation is polysomnographic technologist.
When a patient undergoes a sleep study for conditions such as heavy snoring or suspected sleep apnea, a sleep technician is the individual who monitors what occurs. He or she prepares and observes patients in the sleep laboratory, collects data, makes notes and summarizes information for the doctor who will subsequently decide on a diagnosis.
Sleep studies can identify up to around 100 potential sleep disorders. A study of just one patient can produce more than 1,000 pages of records.
Education and Certification
As is the case with most technicians working in the health care field, a sleep technician who is certified or registered earns more than one who isn’t. Some large practices of sleep physicians and some hospitals are willing to offer on-the-job training to individuals with no prior experience.
However, in order to earn a professional designation as a sleep technician or a polysomnographic technologist, an individual must pass one of two exams given by the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT). This is an independent, nonprofit certification board that offers credentials recognized internationally.
Most health care providers prefer to hire a BRPT-recognized technician over applicants without this credential. Before even being eligible to take BRPT exams, sleep technicians need to complete a number of courses and hours of clinical experience. They must complete a program accredited by the American Association of Sleep Technologist (AST), formerly known as the Association of Polysomnographic Technologists (APT), or cross-train in sleep technology after reaching proficiency in another healthcare occupation.
In order to become a sleep technician, an individual must finish training in computer science. A part of the curriculum involves physical and life sciences like anatomy, physiology and chemistry. Math proficiency in subjects such as algebra, statistics and trigonometry is also a necessity.
BRPT offers two registered credentials for sleep technicians. Passing the entry-level certifying exam results in designation as a Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT). In order to be eligible to take this test, applications must have completed at least three months (minimum of 432 hours) of full-time paid experience. In addition to completing nine professional learning modules, each must furnish proof of completing high school or a GED, or any college-level training.
Passing the exam for the Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) designation means registration as the second, or higher level, with the BRPT. Since 1979, the organization has awarded more than 15,000 RPSGTs in the U.S. Individuals interested in becoming registered at this level have a choice of four tracks to complete before being eligible to take the exam. These tracks represent different mixes of education and prior clinical experience.
Unless someone is prepared to move to a different geographic area to pursue this career, the first step in figuring out if its education and certification requirements represent a good fit is to talk with several local sleep technicians about their careers.
Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT)