Established in 1978 as the Association of Polysomnographic Technologists (APT), AAST was incorporated in the State of Minnesota in 1986.
The primary goals of the association were to build a professional identity for polysomnographic technologists, develop standards, education and training for polysomnography as an emerging field, and provide means of communication and a forum for polysomnographic technologists.
At the time the APT was a small group of twenty individuals, which, over the years, has grown into a national membership organization of more than 2,500 members.
The Development and Growth of AAST
APT was formed when approximately 30 to 40 sleep technologists gathered in April 1978 for an organizational meeting, hoping to establish an association that would promote their professional identity and provide opportunities for advancement. Most of these individuals were research technologists; at the time there were only six sleep disorders centers in the country.
One of the association’s first initiatives was to establish an education and examination board, which was named the American Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (ABRPT). In October 1979, the first ABRPT exam was held at the State University of New York in Stony Brook.
During the next decade the APT grew rapidly as members volunteered their time and contributed their talents to help advance the association.
With the profession flourishing, the APT leadership decided that it was an opportune time to bolster the long-term visibility and credibility of the RPSGT credential by establishing the BRPT as an independent credentialing body, which would help sleep technology gain recognition from other allied health professions.
It was agreed that a major step toward the achievement of this goal would be for the BRPT to earn accreditation from the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA required that applicant-certifying boards be incorporated, and it stipulated that they must be independent in decision-making for all matters pertaining to certification without being subject to approval by any other body.
Therefore, the APT Board of Directors developed a 12-month plan for the BRPT to become an independent organization and provided funds to the BRPT as part of a separation agreement. The BRPT was incorporated in 1999 and assumed sole responsibility for the administration of the RPSGT examination, beginning with the June 2000 exam, before earning NCCA accreditation in 2002.
The APT leadership understood that the establishment of standardized education programs would be necessary for sleep technology to gain widespread recognition as a separate and distinct allied health profession. In 2002, the APT joined the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) as an associate member. During the next year, the APT intensified its efforts to develop the administrative network, policies, standards and guidelines, curriculum and syllabus that an accreditation committee would require. On April 12, 2003, at its annual business meeting in St. Louis, MO, CAAHEP approved the APT’s request to be eligible to participate in the CAAHEP system and to form a Committee on Accreditation for Polysomnographic Technologist Education (CoA PSG). The CAAHEP commissioners also approved the AASM and BRPT as sponsoring organizations for CoA PSG.
On April 24, 2004, the CAAHEP Standards Committee recommended approval of the Standards and Guidelines of Educational Programs in Polysomnographic Technology, which were developed by CoA PSG. In 2006, the first programs in polysomnographic technology were accredited by CAAHEP on the recommendation of CoA PSG, and as of February 2013, there are 42 CAAHEP-accredited sleep technology programs.
The formal recognition of sleep technology training programs was critical to the legislative defense of the profession in numerous states, and the APT continued this effort in the years that followed by investing more than $250,000 in the legislative defense of the profession of sleep technology. With input from staff in the national office and the Governmental Affairs Committee, the board of directors monitored current scope of practice issues and acted to educate elected officials and regulatory agencies about the practice of sleep technology.
The APT’s efforts came to fruition on June 29, 2005, when Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco signed HB 883 into law, making Louisiana the first state in the nation to pass a full licensure law for sleep technology. Following this precedent, licensure laws were passed in New Jersey that December, in Maryland in May 2006 and in Tennessee in June 2007. As of February 2013, there also are laws that provide sleep technologists a specific licensing/certification pathway in the District of Columbia, and 10 other states: California, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia; and additional states are seeking licensure for sleep technologists.
The effort to educate political leaders and other organizations about the profession was given a boost when members voted in 2006 to change the association’s name from the APT to the American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST). The change acknowledged that the practice of sleep technology is not limited to the performance of polysomnography, but also includes other methodological skills used in the education, evaluation, treatment and follow-up of patients with sleep disorders.
On January 1, 2018, the American Association of Sleep Technologists officially changed its name to AAST to reflect that we support and serve more than sleep technologists, and instead support all those in the field of sleep medicine.
In 2001, AAST established its continuing education credit (CEC) program, which gives educational providers an opportunity to apply to award AAST CECs to the attendees of their educational offerings. The program became of vital importance in 2002 when the BRPT began to require continuing education as part of its new recertification program, and it has grown in the years since.
In May 2007, the publication of the comprehensive Fundamentals of Sleep Technology, First Edition textbook was a milestone for AAST and a defining moment for the profession. In June 2012, the Fundamentals of Sleep Technology, Second Edition was published followed by the Fundamentals of Sleep Technology, Third Edition in May 2019.
Today, AAST and the profession of sleep technology are stronger than ever, and the future is bright as sleep technologists increasingly receive formal recognition as the professionals who assist in the evaluation and follow-up care of patients with sleep disorders. With a committed board of directors, a growing and involved membership, and a strong financial standing, AAST is positioned to continue its successful efforts to promote and advance the sleep technology profession in the years ahead.