Careers in Sleep – How to Get a Sleep-Related Job

Since sleep has become such a vast field for researching, it is continually expanding as many people are having problems with sleep disorders. Sleep became an health-related industry worth millions of dollars, and many sleep laboratories and thousands of sleep clinics are open across the US.

It was never easier than today to change careers, invent new job positions, and custom tailor your perfect job. Since sleep has become such a vast field for researching, it is continually expanding due to the fact that many people are having problems with sleep disorders. Sleep became an health-related industry worth millions of dollars, and many Universities have created their sleep laboratories, thousand of sleep clinics are open across the US and in 2013. The first generation of graduated neuro-diagnosticians and sleep scientists got their BA degree at the University of North Carolina.

Since sleeping is related to health, usually some medical or health-related educational background is required, but some positions do not require a bachelor’s degree, or you need to do specialization only, it all depends on your previous education. If you are not thinking about pursuing a professional career in sleep, or you have a degree in something else, and you are done with scholar education, but you are still intrigued by the sleep-related jobs and want to get involved there are still some available options.

When people have a problem, especially when it comes to their health, they tend to find out everything about it, they go in-depth, do the research, read the books, and the best part is that they are also experiencing it in practice, so they are not staying stuck in theory. Sleep disorders are one of those things since they are so common among Americans that they have become almost a part of our lifestyle, somehow it is getting harder to avoid them, and the numbers are alarming. That situation opened the door to a whole new medical field, and although sleep disorders have been known and treated for centuries, the situation today is extreme, and that resulted with the topic that we are discussing here today.


Get Paid to Sleep

It sounds like a dream job, doesn’t it? It is not a joke, and although you can hardly consider this as a regular 9-to-5 job, you can occasionally get paid for sleeping in sleep centers. Many universities and hospitals need participants for their examinations and experiments in various sleep-related studies, and many of them are willing to pay their participants a decent amount of money for it. However, even though it is called a sleep study, sometimes you might need to do the opposite and stay awake for quite some time. The University of Colorado, for example, pays well and often has open calls for participants willing to do a sleep study.

Since today there are numerous sleep clinics in every bigger town, it is easy to get the information and apply for your dream job. Some studies need people of certain age, gender, or there are some other specific requirements that participants need to fulfill. Usually, the clinic will send you a questionnaire, and then they will inform you if you fit in their current research. Make sure that you are getting paid because some sleep studies offer compensations, whereas others are a voluntary type, which is ok if you are willing to do it just to see how it works for free.

Once you are accepted for a sleep study, there are numerous psychological and physical exams in front of you before you start a sleep study because researchers need to make sure that you are able to stay in a sleeping lab room for quite some time, for days even and that you can handle being isolated majority of the time. What can be challenging about this “job” are some demands that can be annoying, for example, you might have to stay in one sleeping or sitting position for a long time, it depends on the study, so make sure that you are able to perform it before you sign anything. Also, you will probably have to wear IV for a part of the study, electrodes will be attached to your head, and sometimes even rectal thermometers are included as a mandatory thing. While you are being isolated in a lab, you will not have access to your smartphone or computer, no clocks will be around you, no windows in the room so that the doctors can determine when daytime and nighttime are for you, so it can be boring and mentally exhausting even though you are not doing anything. And since some of these studies last up to a month, do not rush yourself into it because you are attracted to the money, start with short period studies from 2 to five days to see if you can make it and is it all worth it at the end. Payday is the best part of it because, to be honest, there was not much hard work for that money.


Options for Professional Career in Sleep

If you are interested in this area of research, a great way to check it out is to get an internship during college. Various internships are available and most common ones are internships in sleep research or science, dental sleep medicine, behavioral sleep medicine, and many others. Here we are going to list a few most common career paths which require proper educational background for people who are interested in involving themselves into sleep-related job fields.

  • Sleep scientists are doctors specialized in sleep-medicine with a board certificate coming from one of these fields: internal medicine, anesthesiology, pulmonary medicine, pediatrics, neurology or psychiatry. They either work as professors at universities or in sleep clinics, but many are opening their own private practices too. Their job is to diagnose and treat sleep disorders.

When it comes to former education, after a bachelor degree, they need to get an MD or DO degree, and also do a residency and specialization or fellowship in sleep medicine.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is the only professional organization for sleep scientists.

  • Sleep respiratory therapists are working with people who have breathing issues that affect their sleep quality; usually those with sleep apnea. Most sleep respiratory therapists work in sleep clinics or hospitals, and they are working with patients, training them on how to use the CPAP device properly. They need to have at least an associate’s degree, but a bachelor’s degree in some health or medical field is also highly desirable. Besides their degree, they have to get a certification for a respiratory therapist (CRT) or registration (RRT), and a sleep disorder specialist certification (SDS).

National Board of Medical Care is the professional organization for sleep respiratory therapists.

  • Polysomnographic technologists or sleep technologists are working in sleep laboratories at clinics for sleep disorders. They work under the direction of a doctor who is a sleep specialist and usually operate with the equipment used for sleep studies and monitor patients during the study by following their heart rate, oxygen level, breathing, brain waves, and eye movement. They gather and record all the data from a sleep study and pass it to the doctor who then analyzes everything and sets a diagnose. Sleep technologists have to be trained to perform various sleep studies at sleep clinics, such as parasomnia exams, polysomnography, and multiple sleep latency tests, but besides that, they should also be able to help patients with sleep apnea and get them to know how CPAP works. A possible downside of this job position is that it is usually a night work in shifts from 10 to 12 hours, three or four times per week. When technologists become more tenured and experienced, they may get more working hours during the daytime or be promoted into managers.

Polysomnographic technologists usually supervise sleep technicians, who are in most cases on the way to get their associate’s degree or are in the process of specialization and they need six months of training. After an associate’s degree, sleep technologists usually get CAAHEP or A-STEP accreditation. This job position is probably the “easiest” one to achieve, but it is estimated that the educational requirements for this position are going to increase in the following few years.

American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST) is a professional organization in charge of this sector.

  • Managers or directors of sleep centers have to be certified as sleep technologists, and they can perform operations in centers for sleep disorders. They usually work during the daytime, taking care of the staff, hiring new people, managing policies and procedures, but they are also in charge of making sure that all patients are treated well and that sleep technologists and staff are following all the steps of a procedure properly. Associate’s degree is a minimum, but a bachelor’s degree is more preferable for this job position. Some additional certification that may be beneficial are sleep disorders specialist (SDS), certificate in clinical sleep health (CCSH), registered sleep technologist (RST), registered polysomnographic technologist (RPSGT).

American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST) is a professional organization in charge of managers for sleep centers.

  • Sleep health educators usually work in centers for sleep disorders, and they have the knowledge and expertise about any sleep disorder diagnose that their clinic provides and they are aware of all the aspects of sleep technology. They communicate with patients and provide them with all the information to help them prepare for their examination. Also, they are working in cooperation with doctors and staff but setting the diagnose or recommending treatments is not their primary role. They are focused on explaining all the terms and conditions to the patients and getting their compliance with the treatment. For this job position a bachelor’s degree is required and a certificate for clinical sleep health (CCSH). Associate’s degree can be accepted only if it is combined with some of the following proofs of specialization: sleep disorders specialist (SDS), registered polysomnographic technologist (RPSGT), registered sleep technologist (RST).
  • Neurodiagnostic technologists work together with neurologists, sleep specialists and scientists to monitor and examine the data collected from the nervous system. They usually work at hospitals neurological departments, sleep clinics or private practices, managing long term monitoring, electroencephalography or intraoperative neuromonitoring tests. Also, they apply the electrodes to the patients and monitor them during the study, and later share the data with a physician. For this position, people need to after graduating high school or GED complete an associate’s degree program, or obtain a CAAHEP with a primary focus on either neuroanatomy, physiology or anatomy.

American Society of Electroneurodiagnostic Technologists (ASET) is the professional organization for neurodiagnostic technologists.

  • Sleep neurologists are specialized in brain damages, disorders related to nervous system and spinal cord. Neurological disorders are the cause of many sleep-related issues such as insomnia, fragmented sleep, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. Sleep neurologists have to be trained in neurology and sleep medicine since their job is to use EEG equipment in diagnosing sleep disorders, perform MSL tests or polysomnograms, and to use psychological screenings and questionnaires for recognizing symptoms.

Education wise, neurologists need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology or health field, then they need to go to medical school, complete an internship, fellowship, and residency, and in the end, to get a certification from the board. American Academy of Sleep Medicine is a professional organization in charge of sleep neurology.

  • Behavioral sleep medicine specialists can work as professors at universities or at sleep clinics dealing with patients who have sleep disorders. It has been proven that some psychological disorders such as depression or ADHD can trigger sleep disorders, which makes the diagnosing process harder and the treatment itself. Cognitive therapy works in a way that it helps patients to understand and adjust their emotions when it comes to sleep to reduce anxiety and fears. The focus is on changing the patient’s habits that are hindering their sleep. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, the next step for behavioral specialists is a PhD PsyD doctorate degree and a postdoctoral fellowship, and of course, the certification from the board.

Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine is a professional organization in charge of this field.


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