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Learning how to score a sleep study.


Practice, practice, practice. 

Fundamentals of Scoring a Sleep study

I cannot tell you how many times a new student, a couple days into the course, says "It all still looks like squiggly lines." 

Yes, I know. It will continue to be that way until one day you view an epoch and can recognize a "without a doubt" K-complex. 

Then, you'll add spindles on top of that, then slow waves, then theta, then LAMF, eventually you will be flying through 60 epochs in 2 minutes.   The best way to get there is through experiencing it.

"Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that make you good."

by Malcolm Gladwell

 The definition of practice: perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency.

Repeatedly or regularly. You can't view 1 single epoch and expect to learn the ins and outs of all stages of sleep and wake. You need to practice applying your fundamental skills on multiple epochs and multiple records. This is the only way to become proficient at scoring. 

Learning something new

 I have been scoring sleep studies and teaching sleep scoring for so long I found it hard to view the difficulty from my students' perspective. I tried to think of how I could relate and then I remembered, I picked up a new hobby.

I began birding or bird watching about 6 months ago when I realized my new backyard view has a great vantage point for observation. At this point I knew nothing about birds. I didn't even realize that they don't live in nests all year round, I thought that was their bed. 

Female Blue Grosbeak.

I started by trying to get a cell phone picture of a bird in our backyard. Then I google lensed it and tried to search other picture of birds in Tennessee. 

After some research I started an eBird account and confidently labeled a brown headed cowbird observation. I was so proud of this ID!


It was a female blue grosbeak. I realized this later once I saw the male blue version and got a clear picture and identification. 

Turning fundamental skills into practical expertise

If you're not bored yet, I'll get to my point. In the beginning, I got it wrong. I misidentified many birds and still do but I am much more confident in my ID's now than I was last fall. How did I do that? Practice.

I practiced and I found resources. I look at my yard every morning and evening. I found an app that helps with sound and image identification. I watched a national geographic lecture on backyard birding. I went on hikes at local parks. I invested in some decent binoculars. I joined Facebook groups. 

If you're passionate about learning a new skill, you need to practice. 

At Focus Sleep School, our students have access to the AASM ISR platform and put their skills to practice on 12 different records, that's hundreds of epochs! 

The platform is also great at providing feedback. After you complete a record, you can compare your results to the gold standard, epoch by epoch. Also, you can view a video explanation of the rationale behind the gold standards decisions.

More information on sleep scoring

It's a frustrating and uncomfortable feeling being at the beginning of something new. I hope our students can also find the excitement in the unexpected and confidence when theories start to click.

If you'd like to learn more about the AASM ISR, check out their website. 


Sleep ISR: Inter-Scorer Reliability Assessment System

Scoring exams for sleep study records each month. Sleep centers can meet the AASM Accreditation Standard F-7 for inter-scorer reliability by participating.

Upcoming events - Focus Sleep School

A-STEP Certified Education and Training for the Sleep Technologist
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Tuesday, 18 June 2024