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.
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.