Neurodiagnostic and sleep science technologists record and study the electrical activity of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, the function of the cardiovascular system, and the function of the respiratory system. Technologists perform a variety of tests including:
- recording sleep studies (polysomnograms or PSG)
- recording brain wave activity (electroencephalography or EEG)
- recording responses from peripheral nerve stimulation (nerve conduction studies or NCS)
- recording stimulus evoked responses from the brain and spinal cord (Evoked Potentials or EP)
- monitoring brain and spinal cord activity during surgery (intraoperative neurophysiologic monitoring IONM).
Therapeutic procedures are also performed including positive airway pressure and supplemental oxygen titration for people with certain sleep disorders such as apnea.
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Neurodiagnostic and sleep science procedures are increasingly used in many areas of diagnostic and therapeutic care and health research. Example areas of medicine utilizing these procedures include:
- Sleep disorders: Polysomnography is used to diagnose sleep disorders and therapeutic techniques are used to correct certain sleep disorders. Common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, periodic limb movement disorder, hypersomnia, snoring, arousal disorders, sleep-wake transition disorders, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, sleepwalking, restless legs syndrome, and sleep disorders associated with mental disorders, neurological disorders, and other medical disorders.
- Nervous system diseases/disorders: Neurodiagnostic procedures are used to diagnose conditions such as seizures, epilepsy, congenital and developmental malfunctions, infectious diseases, movement and pain disorders, neuromuscular disorders, toxic and metabolic diseases, nutritional and endocrine disorders, tumors, degenerative disorders and dementia, and vascular disorders. It is also becoming standard to use these procedures to monitor the brain and spinal cord during surgery to reduce postoperative neurological deficits.
- Behavioral/Psychiatric disorders: Neurodiagnostic and sleep science procedures also aid in the evaluation of disorders such as psychotic disorders, depression and mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychological disorders, and somatoform and dissociative disorders.
There is a great shortage of allied health professionals and sleep technologists are among the most critically needed in health care. The American Association of Sleep Medicine (AASM) documents that more than 70 million people in our nation have sleep disorders, most of which are unaware of it . Currently, there are over 80 recognized sleep disorders with insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, jet lag, shift work, sleepwalking, and restless legs being some of the most common . Disorders such as sleep apnea can be fatal. A physician using the relatively new technology, polysomnography, makes diagnosis of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. Technologists aid in the diagnosis, treatment, and after care of patients with sleep disorders and truly help them have better and healthier lives.
Polysomnographic (sleep) technologists measure variables with special sensors (electrodes) while a person is sleeping, such as brain waves, breathing, muscle movements, and heart rate. The technologist gathers information from the special sensors, which is inputted into a computer system and displayed on the screen as a series of waveforms. The technologist analyzes the waveforms to determine the patients sleep or wake state and to assess for any abnormalities in the physiologic variables recorded. The previous process is called “scoring”. A Polysomnogram or sleep study requires patients to stay overnight at a hospital or freestanding lab. Sleep technologists also perform daytime studies to determine wakefulness during the day and evaluate narcolepsy.
Sleep technology is an emerging field and the growth pattern is following a similar path as other allied health fields. Sleep technologists receive specialized training and adhere to their national scope of practice. National registry examinations and nationally accredited formal education programs provide sleep technologists with the opportunity to represent themselves as allied health professionals.
 http:// www.sleepeducation.com/Disorders.aspx
 The International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 2nd edition. Westcheter IL: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2005.