Brittany Dicarolis fields a regular assortment of wisecracks and funny looks when she talks about her profession.
"They're like, "Eew, you watch people sleep!' " the 22-year-old says with a laugh.
Job title: Sleep study supervisor at Advanced Sleep Disorders Center in Medford
Job description: Monitors sleeping patterns of individuals with sleep disorders and supervises technicians
Salary range: $30,000 to $40,000
Education: Took business classes in college and on-the-job training; certification requires 18 months on the job
How long on the job: 2.5 years, the last two at Advanced Sleep Disorders
If you could have your dream job today, what would it be? "To be a marine biologist. Rescuing animals form oil spills and all that stuff, even though it probably wouldn't pay that well."
A sleep study technician, the Grants Pass native spends her nights watching patients trying to get some shut-eye. It's more technical than most would guess, she says, monitoring sensors that record oxygen levels, brainwaves and heart rate.
And she loves what she does.
"As a kid I wanted to find a job that had something to do with science. I wanted to be a marine biologist but you can't really do that from Grants Pass, so I decided to try for something in the field of medicine," she says.
Dicarolis says her mother was one of the industry's first technicians when sleep studies were conducted at Stanford University in the 1980s. Dicarolis joined the field when a doctor's office she worked for in Grants Pass opened a sleep lab.
"He needed to train night techs for it. ... I thought it'd be pretty cool to help people," she says.
"I was going for something medical and it presented itself as a good opportunity."
Sleep study techs set up equipment, tend to patients' needs and note visual changes in patients as they sleep, such as body positions or disruptions.
"Most patients we see have sleep apnea, so we watch to see if they stop breathing for a certain amount of time," she says.
"It takes about an hour to hook them up and it's kind of neat because we really get to know them and hear about their lives."
While the general public tends to think patients swing by to nap for a few hours, Dicarolis says the best results are yielded when an overnight stay is planned.
For beginning techs getting used to the late-night shift, watching people sleep is "like being a starving person and watching somebody eat."
Dicarolis says sleep techs get their share of unusual moments.
"I've had people get up and try to sleepwalk but they're hooked to the wall. I've had people laugh in their sleep. One patient started talking about a spaceship in their sleep — that was pretty funny," she says.
"I've had people bring cameras and want me to take pics of them all hooked up."
For those diagnosed with sleep apnea, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is recommended. Patients are often monitored off the system, then on.
"We see a difference immediately," says Dicarolis.
"Some people come in for a CPAP test and we put a mask on them and increase airflow as they fall deeper into sleep. "¦ Most of the time they wake up and say, 'Oh my gosh, that's the best night of sleep I've gotten in 20 years.' "
Dicarolis says working with people who want help with a serious issue in their lives gives her a good feeling.
"Not getting enough sleep really does affect people's lives. It makes them grumpy. It makes everything harder. So it's really neat to be able to help people like that."
Not that there aren't side effects to the job.
"I love what I do, but I've developed a sleep disorder of my own from working such weird hours," she says.