Polysomnographer: Career Profile, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for polysomnographers. Get the facts about education and certification requirements, job duties, and salary information to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Polysomnographer Do?

Polysomnographers assist in the study, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep disorders. Like other health technologist and technicians, polysomnographers operate sophisticated laboratory equipment, run tests, and log data. They also discuss test results with physicians to make diagnosis and plan treatments. In addition to research and treatment efforts, polysomnographers teach and counsel patients suffering from sleep disorders to help improve illness self-management. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Education Required Polysomnographic technology educational program
Certification Passing the BRPT exam is a requirement
Education Field of Study Nursing, electroneurodiagnostics, respiratory therapy
Key Responsibilities Monitor and record sleep activity, diagnose sleep disorders, develop treatment plans, perform polysomnograms and EEGs
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% (for all medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)*
Median Salary (2016) $51,090 (for all registered polysomnographic technologists)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Is a Polysomnographer?

A polysomnographer evaluates and diagnoses sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, cataplexy and insomnia. Parasomnias, such as night terrors, bedwetting, sleep-eating and sleepwalking, are also diagnosed by polysomnographers. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as many as 70 million Americans have sleeping problems (www.sleepfoundation.org). Approximately 18 million people live with apnea, and one in every 2,000 people have narcolepsy. Polysomnographers help patients live normal lives with diagnosed and treated sleeping disorders.

What Will My Daily Tasks Be?

As a polysomnographer, you'll monitor and record a patient's sleep activity. By recording the electrical activity of a patient's brain with an electroencephalography (EEG) machine, you'll find any insomnia disorders. You'll gather data during the patient's sleep activity, such as breathing patterns and rapid eye movement (REM) cycles, and then diagnose and develop treatments for sleep disorders. Working at night in a sleep disorder clinic or research laboratory allows you to interview patients about their sleeping habits and perform polysomnograms and EEGs.

What Can I Make?

About 21,953 people have been credentialed by the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT), as of 2015 (www.brpt.org). Because of the high number of Americans with sleeping disorders, polysomnographers are needed in sleep clinics. In fact, diagnosing sleep disorders is important to a patient's health. The National Sleep Foundation also stated that sleep deprivation can affect your metabolism, cognitive abilities, hormones, heart and immune system. PayScale.com reported the median salary for registered polysomnographic technologists was $51,090 as of October 2016.

What Should I Study?

You must enroll in a 1- or 2-year polysomnographic technology educational program to work in this field. Training includes courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, testing, respiratory care, neurophysiology and pathophysiology of sleep disorders. Many educational training programs are provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (www.aasm.org). People with a background in respiratory therapy, nursing or electroneurodiagnostics can also work as polysomnographers, because of the similarities in these healthcare fields. Polysomnographers must also pass the BRPT certification exam prior to entering the workforce.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Polysomnographers are a type of medical technician specializing in sleep; other medical technicians work in fields such as clinical chemistry, immunology, and molecular biology. All require formal postsecondary training and utilize special equipment to analyze and record medical data. With more advanced education, individuals can build careers as diagnostic medical sonographers or neurodiagnostic technologists. Diagnostic medical sonographers use medical sonographic technology to create and interpret images used by physicians when making diagnoses. Neurodiagnostic technologists use electroencephalography (EEG), polysomnography (PSG), nerve conduction studies (NCS), electromyography (EMG), and intraoperative monitoring (IOM) to test neuro and nerve conditions.

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