How Does A Sleep Study Work? Everything You Need To Know Update 06/2024

Your doctor may recommend a sleep study if you’ve been experiencing difficulties falling or staying asleep. Your sleep doctor can see how much time you spend awake or asleep, how much REM sleep you have each night, and if you have other symptoms like restless leg syndrome with a sleep study, also known as a polysomnography.

What Does a Sleep Study Measure?

An example of a sleep study is a polysomnogram, which is by far the most common. Sleeping in a hotel-style sleep lab that uses cutting-edge technology to monitor and record your brain and body functions while you rest. What percentage of your sleep time is spent in light and deep stages, if you’re getting adequate oxygen, how often you awaken (even briefly), and if sleep is disrupted by things like arm and leg movements all paint a complete picture of your individual sleep patterns.

Why Have a Sleep Study?

It can be challenging for a sleep doctor to diagnose the precise cause of your sleep difficulties during an initial consultation. They will know exactly how you sleep each night and how much time you spend in each sleep stage after doing a sleep study. When doctors suspect you have a sleep condition, they may recommend a sleep study.

  • Sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder that prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep because it causes you to repeatedly stop breathing.
  • Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness or by abrupt bouts of sleepiness during the day.
  • Disorder in which you enact your dreams while you’re asleep; also known as REM sleep behavior disorder.
  • Like restless legs syndrome, PLM causes you to flex and extend your legs repeatedly during the night.

What Sleep-Lab Equipment Is Used?

An adhesive patch will be placed on your head and body by a technician after you arrive at the sleep center (late in the day or evening). In order to move freely in bed while wearing the sensors, the wires that connect them to a computer are typically gathered above your head. Breathing can also be measured by wrapping an elastic belt around the upper and lower torso. In addition, your blood oxygen level may be tracked by attaching a clip to a finger or ear lobe. The vast majority of people adapt rapidly.
Home Sleep Studies: Pros, Cons, & Procedures

The sleep technician may have you use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine in the sleep lab for the second half of the night if they think you have obstructive sleep apnea. Before you get into bed, you might need to give the breathing mask a test run to make sure it fits properly. To test if the machine’s adjustments have helped with sleep quality, the technician will keep an eye on things.

What To Expect During a Sleep Study

You will have your own private room throughout your polysomnography appointment. The technician will attach painless sensors to your head and body with adhesive or tape before bedtime. If you need to use the restroom, the technologist will separate the sensors and reattach them when you return.

Before drifting off to sleep, you can spend some quiet time in bed reading. The technician will keep an eye on your test throughout the night, record the results, and be there to help if any problems arise. When you wake up from the sleep study, the monitors will be taken off.

The next day following a polysomnogram, multiple sleep latency testing may be administered. You will be equipped with sensors that monitor your sleep cycles during five separate nap times spaced two hours apart. Once the technologist has informed you that it is time for your nap, you can settle in for some downtime and an attempt at snoozing.

For sleep apnea testing at home, your doctor will send you home with a machine and detailed instructions. Put the sensors where you want them and turn on the device before you go to sleep. Continue your regular bedtime routine. Until you wake up and remove the sensors in the morning, the device will continue to collect data throughout the night.

Sleep Study Results

The results of any sleep study you undergo will be given to your doctor for analysis. After the sleep study is complete, your doctor will get in touch with you to go over the results and determine if a sleep issue is present.

How To Prepare for a Sleep Study

Getting ready for your sleep study in advance might make the experience more positive and lead to more reliable results.

In advance of your sleep research, you should…

  • Discuss the medicines you are taking with your doctor. Don’t skip any medication doses without first talking to your doctor about how doing so might affect the findings of your sleep study.
  • In order to alleviate any apprehension you may have about undergoing a sleep study in a clinic, it is recommended that you schedule a tour of the sleep clinic in advance. You may also inquire about having a companion join you for the sleep study’s initial setup.

Prior to the day of your sleep study,

  • It’s best if you stick to your regular schedule as much as possible.
  • Never drink caffeine after 2 in the afternoon.
  • Avoid sleeping.
  • Bring your pajamas, a book, a toothbrush and other necessities, and clothing to change into the next day if your sleep study will be conducted at a clinic. Your own bedding, including a pillow, is welcome.

What if I Can’t Sleep During a Sleep Study?

Sleep deprivation during polysomnography is common due to the presence of sensors and the novelty of the situation. Usually, this won’t alter how your test turns out, but if you’re worried, you should talk to your doctor.

Your sleep apnea test: What to expect - Sleep Apnea

Types of Sleep Studies

The purpose of sleep research is to learn more about a person’s sleep habits and the physiological processes that occur while they are sleeping. There are a variety of sleep studies that can be performed, each tailored to a patient’s specific symptoms and potential sleep disorder.

  • Polysomnography involves a patient spending the night at a sleep clinic while being monitored by a trained sleep technician. A variety of functions are assessed during the night, including eye movements, brain and muscle activity, respiratory effort and airflow, blood oxygen levels, body positions and motions, snoring, and heart rate.
  • When assessing a person’s ability to fall asleep and enter REM sleep during daytime naps, the multiple sleep latency test takes into account how long it takes for each stage of sleep to begin and end. Excessive daytime sleepiness, whether caused by narcolepsy or something else, can be diagnosed with this test (idiopathic hypersomnia).
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) titration is a standard method of treating sleep apnea. CPAP titration is the process by which a technologist determines the optimal air pressure setting for a patient using a CPAP machine before sending them home with their device. A second sleep study is typically needed for CPAP titration. A two-night sleep study is an option when sleep apnea is suspected. Polysomnography is utilized to make a diagnosis of sleep apnea during the first half of a split-night study, and CPAP titration is carried out during the second half.
  • During home sleep apnea testing, a patient’s breathing, heart rate, and other factors are monitored throughout the night. However, compared with polysomnography, home testing delivers less information, and the process is not monitored by a technologist.

What Can a Sleep Study Diagnose?

Several different types of sleep problems can be identified with the help of a sleep study.

  • Insomnia.
  • Insufficiency in Sleep Caused by Sleep Apnea.
  • RLS is short for restless legs syndrome.
  • Narcolepsy.
  • Disease characterized by recurrent, rhythmic limb movements.
  • Sleepwalking.
  • Having Conversations in Your Sleep (Somniloquy).
  • REM Behavior Disorder During Sleep.

Who Needs a Sleep Study?

Although sleep studies are often the gold standard for diagnosing sleep disorders, they are not always essential. A sleep study may be recommended by a doctor based on the patient’s symptoms and health status.

If you’re having trouble sleeping or if you’re suffering daytime symptoms like weariness, drowsiness, sadness, or inability to concentrate, talk to your doctor. Screening for sleep apnea is recommended for patients who are overweight and have sleep problems. If you’re not sure if a sleep study is something your doctor can assist you decide.

A follow-up sleep study might help your doctor figure out what to do next if your symptoms from a sleep problem aren’t better with treatment.

How Much Does a Sleep Study Cost?

A sleep study’s price tag is notoriously hard to pin down. The testing method and the cost associated with the test determine the price. Prices at independent medical facilities tend to be lower than those at large hospital networks. For the most up-to-date details, it’s best to have a conversation with the sleep clinic directly.

Insurance Coverage for a Sleep Study

Whether or not you have to pay anything out of pocket is determined by the coverage limits of your insurance policy. Find out if a sleep study is covered by your health insurance plan by contacting your provider.

If your doctor recommends a sleep study and your insurance company declines to pay for it, you may want to inquire about filing an appeal. In most cases, this means proving that the examination is essential for medical reasons. Your doctor should be able to assist you in gathering the necessary documentation for your appeal.

Can I Do a Sleep Study at Home?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the only form of sleep disorder for which home sleep tests are currently utilized as an evaluation tool (OSA). However, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that home sleep apnea testing only be performed when moderate or severe OSA is suspected and no other health issues are present. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also recommends not using an at-home sleep study as the main basis for diagnosing and treating sleep apnea.

Testing for sleep apnea at home, as opposed to a clinic, can be more comfortable and less expensive. If your doctor suggests polysomnography to diagnose sleep apnea, you might inquire about the feasibility of conducting the test at home.

The Facts About At-home Sleep Tests

They monitor breathing, not actual sleep.

A sleep test measures respiratory metrics rather than sleep quality in order to diagnose sleep apnea. You can’t expect the sleep test to evaluate things like how long you spend in REM sleep versus non-REM sleep. Instead, it will monitor your breathing patterns, including how hard you are working to breathe and how deeply you are breathing.

Screening and diagnosis | ResMed

Your doctor needs to prescribe it.

The test is not available in stores. Your family doctor or a doctor at a sleep clinic can prescribe it for at-home use.

It uses sensors to detect breathing patterns.

One of the sensors is a finger probe that can detect how much oxygen is present in the blood. It works like an oxygen mask in that you put the mask over your nose and mouth and strap it behind your ears. The expansion and contraction of your abdominal and chest areas as you breathe is tracked by additional sensors.

It’s a small commitment.

At most, a single night of use is recommended for at-home sleep tests. As an added bonus, many health insurance plans will cover the cost (which is around a third to a fifth of that of an in-lab study).

It’s convenient.

You can get a more realistic picture of your sleep habits with an at-home study because you’ll be in your own familiar environment.

It doesn’t completely rule out apnea.

A sleep technologist will analyze your test results and then deliver them to your doctor. An in-lab testing may be suggested by your doctor if the symptoms persist. Home testing aren’t always reliable since things like sensors falling off in the middle of the night can throw the results off. When you go to a lab, a doctor is there to keep an eye on you.

You might have other sleep issues.

Lack of airflow is not a hallmark of every sleep condition. However, if the symptoms persist, apnea may not be the cause. Not all sleep problems involve the respiratory system; for example, narcolepsy is a neurological illness that disrupts the normal sleep-wake cycle and causes extreme drowsiness. To determine the root of the problem, your doctor will need to work with you.

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