I have met many people who became interested in my chosen field. It is such a strange field to find education in and so many people do not know how to become a sleep technician. They may hear that you can just find someone who will hire and train you or you may have heard you need to take a 2 week class or you may wonder where there are schools so you can get your degree. Well all of them are right and all of them are incomplete. So let’s look at what it takes to get into the field
The first thing you need to look at is what the job entails. If you do not think you can perform the job than you might not want to go into the field. Most of the jobs are night shift jobs and many people have to work on weekends. This is part of being in healthcare and is common in many fields. You need to be able to work alone and make decisions within posted guidelines. Many technicians work alone as many of the labs are small. You can have anywhere from 1 to 3 patients during the night. You will make decisions during the night on whether to start therapy or change the level of therapy so you have to know how to make decisions. You have to be detailed oriented. The doctor will need to know why you made your decisions. You will also need to perform a study that is clean and easy to read. Not making corrections could lead to the patient returning and an upset doctor.
Where do I get my education? Well the field is in transition. College programs are being developed around the country for sleep techs. Some of the programs are add on programs for EEG techs or Respiratory Therapists others are stand alone programs that will allow you to be working within 1-2 years. You could sign up for one of the accredited programs through the American Academy of Sleep Medicine or the Board of Polysomnography Technologists that are generally partially online and partially classroom. These programs give you some hands on education as well as some theory and along with experience people who go through these programs can sit for both the RPSGT and RST credential. Finally you can get an on the job training job. The problem with them is that you are at the mercy of the lab to get your training and if they do not have a program set up you can learn a great many incorrect things as well as out of date information. You will still have to take an online program to sit for your board exams that should help supplement your learning.
Ultimately, with licensure coming on the job training will limit your employment possibilities. You will need to get credentials as soon as possible so you have the opportunity to be grandfathered into some of the licensures. There will still be some states that will be requiring college education so you should look at the state you live in or may want to live in before you make a decision.
If you have any questions of if you have your own experiences to share please share them below because we all can learn from each other.
I have been working with patients for well over 15 years and during this time therapy has changed greatly. The problem is that the issues I hear are the same ones I heard when I first worked with patients setting up PAPs in homes in the 1990s. The facts are that the therapy has changed and the issues are not nearly as serious as they once were.
Many people talk about how unsexy the therapy is. I think snoring, tossing and turning and being on multiple medications for health issues is much more unattractive. Many of the new masks on the markets are smaller and less intrusive. The Fisher Paykel nasal mask and the RESMED pillows and nasal mask are much smaller with less head gears. These are easier to put on and because less equipment touches the face they are more comfortable to wear.
Many say the machines are too loud. This is no longer true. There are many different machines on the market and the newer ones are much quieter. In fact many of the people cannot tell if the machine is on. This is especially true with the correct mask.
There are some who complain that they dry out when they wear their mask. This was very true when I first set up therapy when I was first doing set ups. Now not only do they have heated humidification that is almost always ordered with the machine. The heated wire hoses helps to prevent water buildup in the hose as well. This new technology helps to make sure those issues, such as nasal congestion, nasal and mouth drying and sinus swelling is kept to a minimum. If you continue to have such problems there are products that can help or you should consider going to a full face mask.
I am a mouth breather and cannot find a good mask. While full face masks can be a little more difficult to get used to there are other options as well. Chin-up strips to help keep your mouth from opening during the night and the Fit Life mask from Respironics may be a better option because it does not sit on the bridge of your nose but does cover your whole face. You can also use products like nasal saline spray or Oramoist to help add moisture to your airway.
The biggest complaint is the pressure. No one expects you to get used to the therapy overnight. There are people that will help you with desensitization to therapy. There are also several new ways that can help you. C-Flex, Sense Awake or ERP are all ways that the machine helps to relieve the pressure. If that does not work than there are other options for the doctor to take. But you need to give it a try getting used to the therapy first. Most people will in 2-4 weeks.
CPAP therapy is one of the best ways to treat sleep apnea. There are few reasons to not try the therapy. The most important thing is to keep communicating with the doctor or the home medical equipment company. They cannot help you if they do not know you are having problems.
A recent study of women found that about 50% of the women in the study had sleep apnea. Other studies show that even mild sleep apnea has a more significant effect on a woman’s health. Yet women are not having sleep studies and worry less about their sleep than men.
If you want to keep your health and you want to get more done pay attention to the symptoms. That mental fog that you may be experiencing could be because you are sleep deprived. The same is true with morning headaches. Sleep deprivation and the changes in oxygen levels throughout the night can cause you to have issues with your memory as well. We all know someone who is constantly misplacing their keys or forgetting appointments. Maybe it is because they are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
Our hormones also affect our sleep. The changes in our hormones throughout the month can cause changes in our body rhythms and our body temperature. This can cause temporary insomnia or difficulty maintaining sleep. There are some solutions to this including keeping the room cooler or take a warm shower before bed. This will help you feel cooler and your body to know it is time to sleep.
If you are feeling anxious, nervous or moody it could be that you are feeling sleep deprived. We tend to not get enough sleep. This leads to less of an ability to control emotions. It also can lead to eating more because the part of our brain that says we are full is slower to react. If you do not plan for your 7-8 hours sleep each night than maybe consider taking a 20 minute nap in the afternoon. This will help your to refresh your mind so you can feel clear headed.
Women also tend to have issues with limb movement and cramping. This could be due to hormones, anemia or low levels of vitamins. It can also be contributed to sleep apnea if there are significant awakenings and decreases in oxygen.
As women we have a great deal of responsibility to take care of the family and our jobs. We tend to put ourselves last. Taking care of our health and our sleep actually makes us a great role model for our family and allows us to have the energy we need to get it all done.
The more research that is done the more people realize a child’s sleep is essential to their learning and their behavior. Many children have poor sleep habits or have issues such as snoring that disrupts sleep during the years when the child’s brain is developing. We are told it is okay if they snore or you are told that they need to take medications to treat the symptoms. What your child might actually need is a sleep study.
The newest studies say that snoring in children can be an early indication of learning disabilities. Poor sleep has also been linked to inattentiveness, irritability or poor memory. These symptoms may sound familiar to some parents. Evaluating your child’s sleep can be very easy.
You start with keeping a sleep diary to see how much sleep your child is getting. You should also include any out of the ordinary activities and their caffeine intake. It is easier to see if there is an issue when you have something concrete to look at. This can be done on a simple piece of paper or you can download a sleep diary for free from the internet.
Consider the age of your child. Children need different amounts of sleep depending on their age. It can also change depending on whether or not they are getting ready to grow. Since growth hormone is produced predominantly during sleep a child who is about to have a significant growth spurt will want to sleep more often and for longer periods of time?
Listen to your child. If they can not make it until bedtime without a significant meltdown than maybe bedtime is too late or maybe they need a short afternoon nap. A school age child might benefit from a 20 minute nap when they get home from school to help them to recharge. They may not need to take a nap all the time but they may need it because they are growing physically or they are learning a great deal and their brain may need to rest so they can process everything they learned.
Create a good sleep environment for your child. Their bedroom should not be cluttered and there should be minimal light prior to bed. The computer, television and cell phone can disrupt the brain’s ability to produce Melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it is time to sleep, and keep you from falling asleep in a timely manner.
Remember that you are in charge. Children will naturally see your request for them to go to bed as something to challenge. It is up to you to set the limits needed for them to grow and learn. Once they see there is no arguing, a hard lesson for us parents to learn, they will understand it is bedtime and will stop arguing.
In the end we all want what is best for our children and for them to be successful at school. The best thing we can do for them is to teach them that sleep is an essential part of their life and that they can use it as a tool to be healthy and to be successful in school.
You have already figured out that fatigue can be caused from sleep apnea but correcting sleep apnea does not automatically correct fatigue. You have been sleep deprived and had poor sleep for a very long time and you will probably need to take a look at several other things along the way to make sure you have the energy you want to have on a daily level. Let’s look at the main causes of this problem of fatigue and then we will discuss some creative solutions.
The first thing you should do is ask yourself when you are feeling the most fatigue. Are you tired when you get up, in the middle of the afternoon or possibly the early evening? Also does this fatigue last a long time or is it a short transient experience?
· Look at your medications and when you are taking them. If you are taking something for pain it can cause issues 20-30 minutes after you take it and may last several hours. You could also be taking an antidepressant that could be causing you fatigue. Are you taking a cough suppressant again that can be causing fatigue. If you are taking a stimulant too late at night that might preventing you from getting enough sleep.
· Do you have another condition that is robbing you of a restful sleep? Limb movements, GERD and bruxism, also known as teeth grinding, could be causing you to continue to have disrupted sleep and increase your level of fatigue.
· What are you eating and when are you eating it. Is the meal large and high in carbohydrates or protein or is it a moderate sized balanced meal? Do you have diabetes and have issues during certain times of the day or night? All of these could be contributing to your fatigue.
· Are you getting enough exercise?
· Do you have a history of a mood disorder? Many of them can cause issues with sleep patterns and levels of fatigue.
· Have you gotten enough sunlight and vitamin D? This can also contributed to afternoon and evening fatigue.
You have an idea of what could be contributing to your levels of fatigue now let’s look at some solutions to the tiredness you might be experiencing. Some of the solutions can be used as a stop gap to a specific experience and some are habit changes you might want to try and make to help you over the long term.
· Take a minute and do some deep breathing exercises. It can be diaphragmatic breathing or it can be slow inhale, hold and slow exhale. You can do an 8 count of a 4 count whatever deep breathing exercise you try will increase your oxygen level to the brain and help you to feel more energized and focused.
· Go for a walk. This can help with two of the issues. It will allow you to get some sunlight which will stimulate the brain that it is time to be awake and exercise helps to stimulate the body to have more energy. The other great effect is that exercise will allow a person to sleep better.
· Take a nap. A short 20 minute nap will allow you to recharge and reboot your brain so that when you wake up you are able to focus and learn more.
· Talk to your doctor about your medications. Sometimes you can be having a side effect not just to a single medication but it could be the interaction between two medications. Many people have more than one person prescribing medications. It is in your best interest to make sure that your primary care physician knows all the medications you take so they can make sure you’re at optimal health without side effects.
· Get enough sleep. We live in a 24 hour a day world and we are making sleep less of a priority. Some people say well I have never slept longer than 4-5 hours therefore that is all I need. This is just not true. Our body needs 7-8 hours of sleep. You need to plan for that long. If you do not get enough sleep the side effects to your body are significant.
· Get enough water to drink. Chronic dehydration will cause fatigue. A great example of this is that hot summer day at the beach where all you want to do is sleep as soon as you get home. Well imagine your body having that kind of stress all the time. That would cause a great deal of fatigue. So drink enough water you will have more energy.
These are just a few solutions. If you continue to have fatigue you should talk to your doctor. There can be some medical conditions that can cause fatigue. Your doctor can test you for low vitamin level, low iron levels, or anemia, or issues such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
No matter what the issues occasionally we all experience fatigue but do not let yourself or your goals get derailed because you continue to have problems with staying awake during the day.