Healthcare Science Week – let’s meet Iain deputy lead sleep physiologist

Thursday 14th March 2024

Healthcare Science Week – let’s meet Iain deputy lead sleep physiologist

Describe a day in the life of your role?
Our duties vary depending on the day but include running, analysing and reporting sleep studies. We also support staff with queries about regular clinical activities, and run clinics to demonstrate how to use home diagnostic equipment and management days.

The key to what I do is pattern recognition and a bit of lateral thinking. Patients will present us with a sleep complaint and then undergo some testing. The inpatient sleep study, known as a polysomnography, is the most comprehensive diagnostic test where we look at brain activity, eye movements, respiratory movements, muscle tone, heart rate and oxygen saturation. We’ll then analyse this to build a picture of the patient’s sleep and try to identify any sleep disrupting pathology. In a sense it’s like other aspects of medicine in that the patient presents us with a complaint and through use of the clinical history, some general and targeted questionnaires, and then diagnostic testing, we can hopefully piece the puzzle together and come up with a diagnosis in order for the physician to initiate some treatment.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
Sleep is a fascinating area to work in and sleep medicine is a relatively young specialty. We spend roughly a third of our lives asleep so good quality and adequate sleep is crucial for general wellbeing including immunity, metabolism, and mental health. It is a privilege to be involved in the diagnosis and management of the various disorders that can affect sleep. The most interesting part is the analysis of the sleep studies.

What was your career path to the position you’re in now?
My undergraduate degree was in life sciences and I did an online course in sleep medicine run by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to allow me to become a Registered Polysomnography Technician (RPSGT). I then became an Expert Somnologist Technologist (EST) and most recently I completed the Master’s Degree in Sleep Medicine from the University of Oxford.

What is your biggest achievement to date?
It’s rewarding when patients have sleep pathologies identified that can be treated or ruled out, and then given advice on behavioural modifications that can help them to improve their experience of sleep.