How To Be A Sleep Technologist

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The official title for a sleep technologist is actually a "Registered Polysomnographic Sleep Technologist" or R.PSG.T. This is the gold standard for sleep technologists and it is an exciting career! As a tech, one of the most frequently asked questions was, "How do you get to do this for a living?"

First, I always laugh, you have to have a sleep disorder. It is required. In truth it isn't but it takes a special kind of person to be able to work nights and sleep days. Unless you are Robert Pattinson or Kristin Stewart.

Sleep medicine is in it's infancy - when I began working in sleep there was no such thing as "sleep school." Many people are attracted to this position because they think they get to sleep for a job. This is not the case and quite the opposite. There are many facets to this job and breaking into the field may not be easy but if you are determined there are plenty of opportunities and room for advancement.

Sleep Tech 1

Every technician must learn how to properly apply the equipment necessary to perform a sleep study but you must also learn all the technology that is used and how to properly recognize each sleep disorder. The very best way to learn this is to work in a lab. The Tech ! learns how to apply the equipment, gets familiar with the polygraph and looking at the signals and what they mean. This is the worst level because you usually have to prepare all the rooms and set everything else up for the night shift.

Sleep Tech II

Once you have gained an understanding of this job and can demonstrate that you are able to move up, the next step is Sleep Tech II. The lab that employed me compensated with additional pay when you reached this point of your training. This means that you have a very good understanding of the profession and this is where you will stay until you are ready to take the R.PSG.T examination that is required by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

While you are training you will need to demonstrate that you have an excellent understanding of Electroencephalography (EEG), Electrocardiograms (EKG), Electromyograms (EMG), and Electrooculograms (EOG) just to name a few of the procedures you will need to learn. You will learn to recognize and report the different types of disorders.

In addition to this - you also have to learn how to use polygraph equipment. It is overwhelming at first but with lots of effort and practice these things become second nature.

Dreamscape trailer - Dennis Quaid/Kate Capshaw (1984)

No Sleep = Stress!

Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (R.PSG.T)

Taking the R.PSG.T exam and passing it is the goal of every sleep technician. It is administered by the American Board of Sleep Medicine. This test is extremely difficult. It is only offered about every 6 months in various random states around the U.S. It is now $250.00 to take the exam. It requires lots of independent study. I studied for 6 months solid and that was after working in a lab setting for 18 months.

The exam is extremely hard. I know of several people who failed it multiple times. It does not matter how many years you may have been performing sleep studies - you have to study everything to pass this exam. It may ask questions about altitude and sleep. Even though I do not live near the mountains and I am pretty sure I will never go to the mountains to run a sleep study - I had to know how living at high altitude effects sleep and many other things that do not come up in the lab.

The test was designed to test your practical knowledge. One of the questions I remember clearly was:

If you begin your study and realize the ground wire is broken off of the polygraph machine what should you do?

  1. Don't worry about it and run the study
  2. Make a note of it in the patient chart and run the study.
  3. Refuse to run the study

That question threw my friend that took it with me. The correct answer is refuse to run the study. My co-worker said, "I chose, 'just make a note of it'." Well wouldn't that have been a real shocker for your patient! The ground wire is VERY important!

If you pass the exam you receive your certificate and you will have a job that pays a salary of a national average of about $47,000.00 per year. This is an average and there are many ways to specialize in different areas that command more pay. I specialized in repairing equipment and was the special projects coordinator. \

You can work with clinical patients or break into sleep research and be on the cutting edge of the newest science in sleep! Sleep research is really fun and I did like administering the tests for these projects. It can be very stressful as everything is usually on a tight time schedule so if a problem occurs you have to be able to work well under pressure.

Sleep technologists have lots of job security and are in such high demand that labs pay premium prices to hire traveling sleep technologists. These positions are very common now and we used them for a temporary research study that we were involved in. I thought that would be awesome for a tech that didn't have a family. They were most often provided with room and board (a hotel room where I worked) a generous salary and they could choose the locations they wanted to work in.

Sleep tech's work all three shifts of the day. Not all tech's work night shifts. There are plenty of opportunities for day jobs in this field. The night tech's run the sleep studies and typically the day tech's will 'score' them. This means they sift through every single page of the study (each page represents 30 seconds of sleep so a complete record is around 960 pages for eight hours of sleep). The tech will scrutinize each page and mark which stage of sleep the patient was in and any abnormal events.

I much preferred working nights to days because the boss worked days! You make a shift differential for working nights and ours was $4.00 per hour. Scoring was boring! You do have to work night shifts in order to pass the exam. Depending on your experience or which route you use to take the R.PSG.T exam, you have to conduct a certain number of sleep studies to be eligible to take the test.

If you are looking for an exciting career sleep medicine may be the one for you! I have attached a link for many of the sleep labs that exist as well as a more comprehensive list of information regarding the qualifications that must be met to become a sleep technician to a sleep technologist!

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Comments 48 comments

Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

RealHousewife,

Thanks for publishing this Hub. I enjoy reading articles in which I learn something new.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Real Deal this hub is loaded with useful information to someone who might be considering a career as a Sleep Tech! Outstanding!! I like the part about Edward and Bella! LOL


barbergirl28 profile image

barbergirl28 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

Wow - what an amazing article. I have always been interested in sleep... not because I like sleep because I find the fact that bodies need to be able to shut down absolutley fascinating. What the body does when you sleep is just mindblowing. I would have loved to have a career in this... although I will admit tabbing almost a thousand pages does seem a bit of a bore! However, the experience and information learned is probably priceless.

I can only assume how hard the test is. It seems very similar to that of a massage therapist. I did go to school for it, have the knack for it, but never took the test. Rumor had it the test was filled with questions you never even learned in school and covered so many different areas. It also cost 250 to complete and if you failed, you could retake for the same fee. Because I already had a career, I guess I took the training purely for information and hobby purposes! That and I got a kick butt massage table as part of the supplies. Who wouldn't want one of those in their house!

Great article as always and way to go for getting your first hub out of the way... 29 more to goo!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Daisy! Thank you and I do love learning about new things. I think it's sad young college students don't know more about all the professions that are out there...I didn't even know this was a real job when I was young! Lol


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Sunshine - there is so much info I tried to KISS it:) LOL. You know Eddie and Bella would be fabulous night techs! Haha! Thanks my friend I need to link you and Stacy in now!!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hey BBG - woot woot! Here we go! Lol

Hey I know you (isn't that so cool I can say that now??) and you would be perfect in this profession! You have the ability to make people feel comfortable and laugh...this might seem like a small thing but it's huge. The sleep tech can make or break a good study. You have to be able to relate to the patient to really help them relax especially of you have to start CPAP! If the patient doesn't trust or like you - it will be a terrible night. You would rock in this job! And it's super fun after you pass the dam exam!! Lol

29? Who's counting? Lol


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

I thought this thing was boring! If I was looking for a new career, I might put this on my list. Very useful and loaded with lots of great info.


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Wow, you don't let any grass grow under your feet! Very comprehensive article that you put together without delay. I know I would love this interesting career. I wish I had thought about this at the start of my layoff! The schools were calling me and I dismissed the idea, as I didn't see the point at my age. This changes my mind. So, you start out at school and does the school place you in an internship? Yesterday, I looked and found some online schools for the "book" knowledge and preparing for the test, but obviously, the course would have to include a "hands on" internship. I'm off to a good start as I answered the sample question correctly!!!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Cardisa! Yes it is a really fun occupation. It is full of the newest scientific research and if you like to travel you can do that too!

Thank you so much!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Amy! Yes you would need to do an internship...I believe the schools have labs that work in conjunction with them - I would not go that route. I would try to get in at a lab first so your training is basically paid for. Then you just work and make 10 or 12 bucks an hour to start - and train while you go!

I think St. Lukes, St. Anthony's, Clayton Sleep Lab, Washington University, Barnes - even Childrens Hospital - pediatric sleep is another good choice for a specialty if you like kids. Most tech's do not! LOL

If you can not find an open job at the moment - I would look into a neurologist office where you run EEG's or in the Emergency room for one they hire moniter tech's. Or EEG labs hire EEG tech's. These jobs could give you a shoe in because the knowledge is very helpful in the lab. If I were trying to do this now...I would look at the internet job boards for the places I mentioned and look for more! We have lots of labs here - another cool place to work might be Gateway! They do a TON of research and drug studies.

I just found out Sanford Brown has a program now too!! I linked it below Amy! Good luck and let me know if anything good happens!!


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Thank you, RealHousewife! I appreciate your suggestions as I was concerned about the cost of school. I'm going to check out St. Anthony's and Wash U! I like kids, but I can imagine how difficult it would be to get them to "sleep" or just stay still in a lab environment. In fact, its probably not easy for adults!


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I just looked up out of curiosity how the job market for a Polysomnographic Sleep Technologist is here in Ontario and there were quite a few posting.

Your hub is packed full of great info. If I were younger I would consider perhaps looking into doing this as a career.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Amy - Yes check it out for sure - there are not many sleep tech's around. So many people do not realize this is a real profession! lol

I was the only tech with kids - so I was usually scheduled to watch them...they were much easier than many adults most times! HAHA! They are usually pretty compliant. The babies are the challenge! Now they have pediatric sleep clinics - it is a specialty for sure.

Let me know what you find out!!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Susan! I am not surprised - they are really in demand. There are not that many real registered sleep tech's in the world..if you passed the exam for the R.PSG.T - you were golden. You can get a job anywhere! lol And you are for sure not too old!

Interesting they are in Canada - I am glad you told me. Apparently in Britain they do not have sleep labs at all!


barbergirl28 profile image

barbergirl28 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

Ha ha - ya - totally cool that you can say that! LOL... I can say that too now and I am like - yeah... and now, I can officially say I know someone who has been a sleep tech. It would be super cool to do... well, after the test. And I do have a thing for staying up late...

Oh yeah - don't count... just do! ;)


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Hi RH! This is a very interesting topic for me because I have sleep disorders. I have had a few sleep studies. As usual, my problems did not seem to match up with any case studies. Since I would fall asleep within 30 seconds of lying down, yet would never fall into REM sleep, they labeled me with Narcolepsy. I take medicine each night. I tried the C-Pap, but would wake up with it tangled everywhere. I never remembered removing it, but sometimes it would be at the end of the bed. I was told that I need at least 10 hours of sleep a day... RIGHT! Wife, mother, teacher, friends, family... ain't gonna happen. I do try to take a nap each day after I get home. That helps and puts me at about 8 1/2 - 9 hours a day when adding bedtime and nap time. I tire very easily, but such is life of a busy person. I always thought it would be interesting to be a tech, either day or night.

Very interesting article. Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting and shared! :-)


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Wow.. this is new to me. This is a fascinating career field. Do you have any advice for snoring? Well done. Voted up, up, and away!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

BBG - I know! lol You could BE the tech not do the test! lol Actually sleeping in the lab? That part is hell! haha!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

sholland - you are very interesting! So did they have you do Multiple Sleep Latency Tests? Those would be done during the day - 4 or 5 quick 20 minute naps in one day directly following a full night study - to see if you A) fall asleep and B) go into the REM stage pretty quickly (which you should not - narcoleptics do).

We would have LOVED to have checked your sleep out. Narcolepsy is pretty rare in the lab. I did have a guy once that was positive for it....I was like "hey! He is in REM! Look guys!" during his test:) LOL We were all over at my computer checking his brain waves out!

That is awful...some people do need more sleep than others. I don't get as much as I should either...and I am wrecked from working nights.

Thanks for the interesting commentary! You would have been a rock star at our lab! I wish you could tolerate the CPAP! It would make you feel so much better. Did they acclimatize you to it? You should try wearing it for just a little bit at a time first - or only during nap time. People often rip them off while they are asleep and it is normal not to remember doing so. When we wake up for just a second - it isn't long enough for the brain to retain it as a memory - you have to be awake for a couple of minutes. It takes a lot of getting used to!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Tammy - yes - ear plugs! LOL Snoring is a sign of obstruction. It is an indicater of sleep apnea! But snoring can be just that - irritating snoring. People that sleep on their backs generally will snore much louder. Sleeping laterally (on your left or right side) can be some good positional therapy. Snoring is bad because unless you have the surgery (which should not be taken lightly because it doesn't work all the time and if it does at all it is short term).

Cpap is the only thing that is 100 percent effective for snoring! No body likes to hear that, I know. If you need it though - nothing can charge the mind and body like proper sleep!!


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

My first study was done around '96, which is when they weren't sure what type of disorder I had. Thus, the narcolepsy diagnosis. I did do the daytime naps. That is when they found how quickly I fell asleep. Boy, I was worn out after the study. LOL I need to find my files and reread them. I had another study 2 or 3 years ago. They told me to keep doing what I was doing.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Ok I was super curious if they followed up with the naps right after the PSG. Wow! So you must just drop right off and go into a REM stage! Pretty unusual...man I wish I could have been your tech! Lol.


dumindu89 profile image

dumindu89 4 years ago from Sri Lanka

I found useful stuff from this hub. Nice share.


BRIAN SLATER profile image

BRIAN SLATER 4 years ago from Nottingham Uk

Hi RH, you have packed this hub with useful information, there must be lots of people wanting to take up a career as a techy. Kudos to you, voted up.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi dumindu! Thank you very much! I sincerely appreciate your comment!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Brian Slater! Thank you so much - I hope people do want to get into this field ... there are not enough good sleep techs and they are always in demand. It is a truly fun and rewarding career!

Thanks a bunch for the votes!


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Dear Super Sleep Tech Person,

I fall asleep every time I try to take the sleep test. Is that normal? I even fall asleep when I am writing comments .... zzzzzzzzz! (sound of snoring)

Uh, where was I? Oh, yes, this was such excellent information, I'm going to share it with my pet owl who can't seem to get to sleep at night. Will keep you informed of .... zzzzzzzzz!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Drbj - I surely hope you are up to your usual kidding! lol If not - then you need to rush to a sleep center!

That poor owl - They are just about one of the only critters that are awake with me late at night. I am so glad they are nocturnal and not that woodpecker that sits on my chimney! lol


mythicalstorm273 profile image

mythicalstorm273 4 years ago

I'll be honest I wasn't sure If I was going to read this one because although I love sleep I'm not interested in becoming a sleep technologist, but I love your writing and the way you spin things and with you now doing the 30 days thing I figured I should try to stay on top of your readings. After all I've missed very few of yours since I've joined hub. So I went a head and clicked and.... I enjoyed it! Just goes to show that I should always read your hubs :-) It was very interesting hearing about how a very strange and uncommon job can be achieved. Plus I always enjoy the peak into your past. You have such an interesting life I just love reading about the pieces that have put it together! Very interesting and I am glad I took the time to read it!!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Myth - I don't think you have ever missed a hub of mine...I was just checking on you a few days ago and saw you hadn't at that time written anything since the latest....I know you have been busy so I didn't want to bug you;).

Thanks so much for the slew of compliments! I do admit I feel I have had a very interesting life...I have always done lots of traveling and I meet new people constantly...keeps life fun! I so appreciate you:). Thanks so much for being such a terrific supporter and commenter and thinker! Lol.


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

That's one big drawback is to have to work nights. Does staying awake during nights and sleeping during the day affect the body and metabolism negatively in the long run? Seem like that it would throw off the body's natural diurnal cycles.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi BlissfulWriter - thanks for the great question. You are right - working night shifts causes you to change your circadian rhythm - or your body clock. I worked with a really smart guy on nights - so he's my reference point here - but he said working nights can reduce your life span by about 7 years!

It is very hard for some people to change their body clock. Some people don't adjust well so night owls are usually ok with it after the initial adjustment period. When the sun comes out - the light enters our brains through our iris...that often reduces chemicals that are produced in the brain to become released. These chemicals cause us to feel alert...and I believe that they also play a huge part in mood and those happy endorphins. So the body can get all confused...there are slight irrupting ones to really disruptive ones depending on the person. During night shifts we often used light boxes that emitted the same rays the sun does to keep us on track.

Thank you so much! I hope all your dreams are good ones:)


mythicalstorm273 profile image

mythicalstorm273 4 years ago

I know I have been busy and that is why I haven't written much, but I wish I had more time for writing. The problem is when I take the time to write something down I usually don't like it either. I have so many ideas about what I would like to write, but when I sit down to do it the ideas just slip off the paper and they do not make much sense or make me happy with how they came out. I did finally write one yesterday that I've been meaning to write for a while. It wasn't great, but I am glad to get at least a hub out once in a while. That is more my goal than anything.

Anyway... You deserve every compliment I can give you :-) I would love to travel and do a lot of interesting things and meet a lot of interesting people! Maybe someday that will happen, but for now I am content reading about others! After all I'm too busy to do much else! lol.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Myth - I have been there before - where everything I write doesn't sound as cool as I thought it did...in fact..if you want the truth - I always get nervous before I hit the publish button and am pretty sure whatever the article is - it's crap! LOL I don't know if we are super hard on ourselves or what? Also - I like to let them sit in to stew for a little while - then I tweak them later and it all falls into place. I hate rewriting but man do I do a lot of it!!! Wow!

You ar such a dear heart! I so appreciate you - and your great comments. You are beautiful and have a great sense of humor! You can really accomplish any goal that you set...and when I was your age - I was working hard all the time and could not afford to do much excitement! LOL It took quite a few years of working, saving, working, saving, working, saving! LOL You are right where you should be right now my friend....your success is waiting for you just down the road!


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

I found this very interesting. I had no idea altitude could have an impact on sleep - good thing I don't live anywhere near the mountains! And your reason for liking night shift over day shift is the BEST I've ever heard: the boss works on first hahahah! Good stuff girl - as always!


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Hey Kel,

Of course I've never thought of this profession, but gosh, you truly make it sound like a great option. The salary is decent and the job is in demand. Hmmmmm . . . thanks for all the details!

Sharyn


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hey Ardie - weird - I just saw your comment! Thank you 6 days later:) lol

Yeah! The boss was mean! LOL. And we would just go rogue at nite:) hahaha! Cranked up the tunes (with the lab door shut) and yes - I did sing very loud! Until we got busted one night when the lab director called :-). I had lots of fun;) haha!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hey Sharyn - it is a really great and fun occupation. YOU would be perfect for that job with all your patient care experience. And I would not hesitate to push your skills with patient care and the elderly because that is a big percentage of your business. Check the labs near you - I know there is a big one where you live!

I'm serious though - it's a great, fun, exciting profession on the cutting edge. Great pay too especially if you can carve a specialty like pediatrics or respiratory therapy is a biggy here. Have to know a ton about respiratory therapy....


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Is there a prerequisite for Sleep Tech I? Do you need a high school diploma for it? Voting this Up and Useful.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hey Alocsin- thank you. Most labs *prefer* that you have a bachelors degree in psychology.....mine did but they also made exceptions from time to time. I was still working on my bachelors but I had at least my AA for sure then. A high school diploma is probably required to take the board though at the least:) good luck!


Trsmd profile image

Trsmd 4 years ago from India

Technology for sleeping also? Amazing. You have provided various details which I had never thought of. Thanks for sharing:)


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Trsmd - yep - good technology for those who need it. CPAP for instance is the only treatment that is 100 percent effective is used correctly. And all it is a pressurized, room temperature air! Thank you!


DFiduccia profile image

DFiduccia 4 years ago from Las Vegas

I found this hub to be useful and informative. Your field of study has been something of interest to me for many years. Voted up.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thank you so much! It's a very interesting field of study - seems like there's always some excitement in the air - always on the verge of a new discovery with research! I would go to work - literally wondering what fascinating subject I might have or the anomalies I might see....I really encourage anyone who is interested to go for it:)


SVAJ 4 years ago

I am interested in a career in Polysomnographic Technology and have been frantically looking into it, but it is extremely difficult to find a school that offers any sort of certification in it. I do not have a Sanford Brown in my area. Does anyone know of any other accredited school that offers this program/certification?


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi SVAJ - I do not know of any schools that offer a certificate for this. My best advice would be to go to a college that has sleep medicine in the cirriculum or apply for jobs at sleep labs. You may have to start out at the bottom (as I did) hanging wires and cleaning rooms but you get trained in a lab and work your way up.

In order to take the test to become a Registered tech - you have to train and do a certain number of "successful" sleep studies (hundreds) and work in the lab for 18 months. You can't just take classes - you have to actually have hands on training. Most of the techs have degrees in either Psychology or Biology. Labs most often require a bachelor's degree before even training you but not always. If you can find a sleep lab near you - start applying and asking for training! Good luck!


beastmode0123 3 years ago

I had a question in regards to sleep. With everything going to home sleep studies and reimbursement rates lowering for sleep studies, where do you see sleep as a registered tech. I only need 4 classes to qualify for the rpsgt. I am not a sleep major, but my science background allows me to eliminate a lot of courses. B/c of clinicals it would take 9 months. However, I was nervous because of all the above. I also didn't know if having a degree in health informatics would be in the future of sleep. Reason I am only 39 hours away from a health informatics degree.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

I don't really see home sleep tests as a real option. I know science is improving but all the home tests I saw were just crap. People move too much in their sleep...you have to know what is causing what...a test run on a machine can't answer these pivotal questions! So I wouldn't fear that too much...too many people need to be re-evaluated after a few years too...sleep medicine isn't going anywhere!

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