What Does a Sleep Technologist Diagnose? Find Out Here

sleep tech

The word sleep technologist may seem confusing. After all, what could potentially be the job of a sleep technologist? What do they do? How does it matter? Let us find out!

Sleep technologists are trained in the diagnosis of sleep studies or polysomnography. They are unique healthcare professionals who are trained in a number of methodological skills.

Usually, a sleep technologist will work with other healthcare professionals or one chief healthcare professional and assist in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in a wide range of patients. They are trained specifically to perform polysomnography.

What Is Polysomnography?

Before we delve into the more specific skill sets and job profile of a sleep technologist, let us understand what polysomnography is as it is a big part of what they undertake in their day-to-day life as a sleep technologist.

Polysomnography refers to a comprehensive test that makes use of brain waves, oxygen levels in the blood, heart rate, breathing and movements of the eyes and legs to make certain inferences about sleep patterns of individuals.

The test is able to monitor your sleep and determine what is causing issues to your sleep cycle and disruptions in your sleep.

It is usually performed at night at a special center or hospital. Sometimes, however, it may also be done during the day depending on individual cases and circumstances. The results of polysomnography may be used to determine the future course of treatment for conditions such as sleep apnea.

Who Needs Polysomnography?

Polysomnography evaluates symptoms of sleep apnea among other things. This is usually prescribed for people with:


  • The persistent problem of snoring
  • History of restlessness during sleep
  • Problems of waking up at night

A sleep technologist can use this test to diagnose sleep-related seizures, restless leg syndrome, chronic insomnia and sleep behavior disorder.

If you are someone who has some or all of the above problems along with a few more, you need to get this test done because evading it is going to create a host of issues such as stroke, depression and heart disease.

The results may take up to 3 weeks to arrive and a sleep technologist will compile all the data and give you the final report with graphs and findings on your sleep cycle.

Are There Any Risks Associated with Polysomnography?

Polysomnography is a non-invasive and painless procedure that does not have risks. At most, you can experience some skin irritation because of the electrodes attached to your skin during the process. But that is about it.

If you have any concerns, feel free to discuss them with your sleep technologist before going through the process. This should put you at ease.

What Is a Sleep Technologist Trained in Doing?

Sleep technologists can undertake a number of tests to arrive at inferences. These include procedures such as:

  • Capnography during polysomnogram
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Electrocardiography 
  • Nasal and airflow monitoring
  • Body temperature monitoring

These are just a few of the many tests and procedures these professionals are adept at undertaking. In reality, the scope is really wide and you can entrust them to conduct the entire polysomnography by themselves, though under supervision.

Sleep Technologist Skills

Just like any job, sleep technologists are expected to be skillful. Some of the key skills they need to possess include:

  • Knowledge and awareness of all safety protocols, guidelines and regulations of dealing with patients with certain sleep conditions.
  • Knowledge about the equipment used while conducting sleep study and also adept at keeping the equipment in the best condition throughout.
  • Trained adequately in computer and literary skills.
  • Possess good communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • Demonstrate high-quality social skills and exemplary customer service.
  • Has an analytical and critical mindset and can work under minimum supervision.
  • Demonstrates teamwork and compassion.
  • Can talk to patients and educate them about their condition and next steps in a manner that is gentle yet firm.
  • Has completed a sleep technology program by an accredited university and holds a Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT) credential or equivalent. Some relevant industry experience (internship or traineeship) before starting on a formal job is also considered an asset.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are a number of other things that a sleep technologist is trained in doing.

So What Exactly Does a Sleep Technologist Diagnose?

A sleep technologist can diagnose a number of sleep-related ailments. Though polysomnography remains one of the most commonly used sleep tests, there are other tests that a sleep technologist can undertake and help diagnose. These include:

Multiple Sleep Latency Test

This is used to test excessive daytime sleepiness and also check a patient’s ability to sleep in certain environments. This test can diagnose narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia. They usually work by asking patients to take five consecutive naps scheduled two hours apart from each other.

People who tend to sleepwalk or have troubled sleep during the night and feel sleepy during working hours are best suited for this test and may benefit from the diagnosis.

CPAP Titration

These are overnight studies conducted in a laboratory to measure a patient’s oxygen levels, heartbeat, brain waves and arms and legs movement while sleeping. This is usually done to diagnose breathing disorders.

Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT)

The maintenance of the wakefulness test is a challenging test that demands that patients remain awake during the trials and is usually used to measure the level of alertness of patients. It also checks their ability to stay awake in a relaxing environment.

This test is also done on patients who have previously undergone CPAP therapy just to check the efficacy of the process.

The Final Word

A sleep technologist deals with some fascinating aspects of human health and monitors patients with sleep problems and issues of weariness and tiredness during the day.

They are trained and skilled in conducting a number of tests that diagnose sleeping disorders and are also qualified to suggest solutions and prescribe treatments. In most cases, they work under a senior doctor.


Dan was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2017 when he was only 32 years old. He has been using a BIPAP machine for his treatment. He hopes to provide a patient's perspective on the sleep apnea experience. Dan lives in Tampa with his girlfriend and 2 dogs.

Recent Posts