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By: Kevin Asp on August 12th, 2015

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What do Sleep Technologists do? A New Look Into The Scope of Practice

Events | Sleep Technologist Advice


The definition of who a sleep technologist is has changed over the years.

What is sleep technology?

Sleep Technology, also called Polysomnographic Technology, is recognized as a separate and distinct allied health profession. Sleep technologists are trained in sleep technology and relevant aspects of sleep medicine. They assist in the evaluation and follow-up care of patients with sleep disorders as identified in the current International Classification of Sleep Disorders

The scope of practice of sleep technologists enables them to work in sleep centers, laboratories for sleep related breathing disorders, Durable Medical Equipment (DME) settings, academic and industry research settings, home environments, and non-facility-based settings under the direction of the sleep specialist.

Who is a sleep technologist and what do sleep technologists do?

Sleep technologists assist sleep specialists in the clinical assessment, physiological monitoring and testing, diagnosis, management, and prevention of sleep related disorders with the use of various diagnostic and therapeutic tools providing care to patients of all ages.

These tools include but are not limited to polysomnographs, positive airway pressure devices and accessory equipment, out of center sleep testing (OCST) devices, oximeters, capnographs, actigraphs, nocturnal oxygen, screening devices, and questionnaires. 

There are three core parts of a sleep technologist's role:

1. Responsibility for a patient's care during sleep testing and follow-up education -  The sleep technologist, technician and trainee are responsible for the care, comfort and safety of the patient. An understanding of the patient’s sleep and other medical problems, including medications is essential. The technologist interacts with the patient throughout the evaluation to assure patient comfort and safety, and to promote patient understanding of and compliance with all procedures and treatment.

2. Communication - The practice of polysomnography requires interactions with numerous individuals including the patient, members of the patient’s family, the sleep medicine physician, and other technologists and physicians. Proficient verbal and written communication skills are essential.

3. Management -The sleep technologist may perform other tasks and duties such as managing a sleep center or sleep medicine practice which includes patient scheduling; material and supply management; supervision of staff, students or ancillary personnel; training, educating, and professional development; development of policies and procedures; fiscal management and billing; preventative maintenance; and data management. Additional tasks may also include data collection, administrative report generation, maintaining compliance standards, employee review, documentation and process oversight.   

What does it takes to become a sleep technologist?

You can become a practicing sleep technologist after you have been credentialed by the American Board of Sleep Medicine, or, if you are a respiratory therapist, the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists or the National Board for Respiratory Care. Becoming a sleep technologist requires engagement in various educational efforts, which include:

1. Completing a training and competency assessment by an experienced and registered technologist under the supervision of a sleep medicine physician is the minimum requirement for working independently. 

2. Completing an accredited training program and certification is currently recommended. 

3. Becoming certified and/or licensed based on your state's practice requirements.

4. Participating and accumulating continuing education credits (CECs) each year to advance personal excellence is strongly recommended along with participation in the education of other sleep technologists, technicians and trainees. (Here is how to get those credits easily and painlessly.)

5. Participating in self-assessment, quality assurance, and quality improvement initiatives of the sleep center.

What is the scope of practice of sleep technologists?

Sleep Technology, also called Polysomnographic Technology,is an allied health-care occupation that embraces a unique body of knowledge and methodological skills. Those who become sleep technologists are specially trained to perform polysomnography and other tests used by a physician to diagnose and treat sleep disorders.

Polysomnography includes the process of analyzing, monitoring, and recording physiologic data during sleep and wakefulness.

This includes providing polysomnography services that are safe, aseptic, preventive, and restorative, applying the use of techniques, equipment, and procedures involved in the evaluation of polysomnography for the treatment of sleep disorders that are offered during the staging, execution of and scoring of a sleep study. These procedures include, but are not limited to:

  • Implementation of a written or verbal order from a licensed physician that requires the practice of polysomnography, including Out of Center Sleep Testing (OCST)
  • Positive airway pressure titration on spontaneously breathing patients
  • Supplemental low flow oxygen therapy during polysomnogram (up to six (6) liters per minute)
  • Capnography during polysomnogram
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Pulse oximetry
  • pH probe placement and monitoring
  • Esophageal pressure
  • Sleep staging, including surface electroencephalography, surface electrooculography, and surface submental electromyography 
  • Surface electromyography of arms and legs 
  • Electrocardiography 
  • Respiratory effort monitoring including thoracic and abdominal signals
  • Plethysmography blood flow
  • Nasal and oral airflow monitoring
  • Body temperature monitoring
  • Audio/video monitoring of movement and behavior during sleep
  • Monitoring positive airway pressure modalities used to treat sleep related breathing disorders, including the effect on sleep patterns, provided that the device does not extend into the trachea
  • Monitoring the effects on sleep patterns of an oral appliance that does not extend into the trachea and that is used to treat sleep apnea
  • Analyzing and scoring data that may be used by a licensed physician in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep and wake disorders that result from developmental defects, the aging process, physical injury, disease, or actual or anticipated somatic dysfunction
  • Observing and monitoring physical signs and symptoms, general behavior, and general physical response to polysomnographic evaluation
  • Providing Durable Medical Equipment (DME) to patients
  • Coordinating patient care and education
  • Therapy compliance
  • Educating patients and their caregivers
  • Tracking and management of disease state and outcomes
  • Promoting health and wellness

Who represents sleep technologists?

The American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST) is a national membership organization that represents sleep technologists. There are many significant benefits and protections sleep technologists receive by joining the only national organization that solely represents sleep technologists. To learn more about becoming a member, read about the benefits of becoming one here

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About Kevin Asp

Because of the implementation of his best practices of Implementing Inbound Marketing in its Medical Practice, he turned the once stagnant online presence of Alaska Sleep Clinic to that of "The Most Trafficked Sleep Center Website in the World" in just 18 months time.

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