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What is a Sleep Lab Technician?

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  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2016
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A sleep lab technician, also known as a polysomnographic technician, is responsible for monitoring patients during a sleep study. He or she must know how to brief patients on the procedures and answer any questions about the sleep lab. In addition, a technician must be able to set up the electroencephalograph (EEG) monitoring equipment and properly read it. This job requires a great deal of technical knowledge, and a sleep lab technician usually will earn a certification before taking the job.

A sleep study is a clinical research tool used to determine why individuals are having trouble getting to sleep, are not getting to sleep, are not sleeping well or some combination of these problems. These tests require a patient to spend the night in a laboratory, hooked up to brain wave monitors and often recorded by a video camera. These results of the sleep study are examined to better determine what physical or mental problems are prohibiting the patient from having a healthy sleep cycle.

In order to assist with this process, a sleep lab technician must have prior training. He or she attends a technical program centered on earning a sleep lab technician certification. In order to get the certification, the student must study the sleep tools, understand how to read the results and be an expert on safety and communication.

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After the sleep lab technician has been certified, the job focuses on the laboratory studies. The first responsibility of the technician is to deal with patients. He or she first must communicate to the patient what the process is like, explain what each machine does and answer any questions that come up. Secondly, the technician hooks up the patient to the proper equipment. These are, in most cases, EEG brainwave monitor sensors and heart rate monitors that adhere to the skin on the head and chest.

Another major responsibility of a sleep lab technician is monitoring these complex machines for many hours. Traditionally, a sleep study lasts for eight to 10 hours during the night in order to watch a normal sleeping situation. This means that the technician must watch many charts, graphs and monitors to see what each patient's body is doing during the study.

Many technicians also assist the sleep technologist or director in the final diagnosis of the findings. Reviewing the charts and graphs and comparing the findings to known symptoms is a major part of the diagnosis. Another responsibility of some technicians is ensuring that these results are sent to the patient's primary doctor for a final evaluation.

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KoiwiGal
Post 3

You really want to try and make friends with your sleep lab technician before going to sleep.

I haven't done it myself, but the idea of being watched all night by someone I don't like very much kind of creeps me out.

I know it's just another laboratory job to them, but it's a complete invasion of privacy to the person in the lab.

You're at your most vulnerable when you're sleeping. You could be talking, or drooling or snoring or any number of embarrassing things and they would be capturing it all on camera.

I know it's not that big a deal, but it's hard enough to fall asleep in an unfamiliar place, possibly hooked up to all kinds of machines, without also not knowing who is watching you.

Much better to at least say hi and get that one part of the experience out of the way.

umbra21
Post 2

@pastanaga - I don't know, I don't think the effects are as bad as all that, and if anyone would know how to counter any difficulties a sleep lab technician would. Sleep tech jobs are pretty regular so I imagine they wouldn't be working shifts. They would be going to sleep at the same time every day, just not at the same time everyone else is.

And they would be able to do things like use blackout curtains and those alarm clocks that mimic the sunrise to help them wake up.

Those aids are actually a good idea for everyone to use. People take for granted that they can sleep whenever they want, but the body prefers to sleep with the sun. Artificial aids like that go a long way to make you feel better rested.

It won't make any schedule perfect, but it won't be that bad either.

pastanaga
Post 1

Something I find kind of ironic about someone working as a sleep lab technician is that since the job is, by necessity one that runs overnight, the technician is damaging their own sleep patterns by holding it.

No matter how well a person adapts to being awake during the night and asleep during the day, they are always going to be slightly impaired. There have been quite a few studies that show this. They are going to be slightly worse at driving and calculating things and so forth. And they will almost always find it very difficult to get a solid 8 hours of sleep.

So, I find it a little bit ironic that sleep centers are kind of enforcing this lifestyle on their lab techs even though it's the kind of thing that they should be trying to get their patients to avoid.

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