11 October 2014

Note from the Curator: This Week is Sleep Technologist Appreciation Week

I work as a registered polysomnographic (sleep) technologist (RPSGT), but my first encounter with sleep labs was as a patient several years ago. I had been suffering some amazing bouts of fatigue and waking up with a sore throat, headache and complaints from my husband that my breathing wasn't right while I slept. I gasped or snored loudly or, it seemed to him, I stopped breathing altogether.

So I went in for a sleep study, which ruled in some things, ruled out some things, and missed actually something else entirely (which is nobody's fault as I wasn't presenting other symptoms to encourage the docs to look in a different direction).

I won't share the sleep study experience itself here, but I will share this:

My sleep technologist was a very soft-spoken young man who gently and adequately answered my questions. I was super nervous going into the study, especially when I discovered I would be watched by video and audio all night by some guy (or guys?) I didn't even know in another room. That's creepy for any woman to ponder. But after interacting with him, I felt much more secure that he was a medical professional and I would be in good hands.

He was also very good about showing me how to use a CPAP mask in the event I needed to switch to it in the night (a common feature of a split night polysomnogram). In fact, I expected the mask to be unpleasant and was quite nicely surprised at how easy it was to wear. I ended up not using the mask, and still don't need to use CPAP, but I must credit this sleep tech with making my first trial with positive airway pressure a pleasant, stress-free experience. Often the first experience a patient has with any kind of medical device will be a key predictor in their ability to follow through in using it later. A good first impression really makes a difference.

Ultimately I fell asleep and they got the data they needed. I left the lab feeling cared for and not at all violated even with cameras in my room.

Thank you to all the sleep techs out there who give at least 12 hours a night and several days a week over to the task of conducting studies so that people like me can be observed, diagnosed and treated. I know first hand how hard it is to stay up all night, to deal with unruly patients, to work around equipment failures, and to ensure everything works out okay in the end.

--TKS, curator, SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com