What to Expect at Your Sleep Study
So, you have troubles sleeping at night? Or perhaps you are excessively tired during the day? Did you doctor suggest getting a sleep study done?
While you might be concerned at the prospect of sleeping at a strange place with strangers watching over you, the actual process is quite simple. Let’s walk you step-by-step through what you can expect from a sleep study.
A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is the best way for doctors to discover just why you are not getting a good night’s sleep. If you have an issue with snoring, restless limbs, sleepwalking, bedwetting, night terrors, insomnia, or difficulty sleeping while on shift work, a polysomnogram will let the doctors see just why you are having difficulties, and make suggestions which can help relieve the problem.
There are five different types of sleep tests:
Diagnostic Overnight Polysomnogram
Diagnostic Daytime Multiple Sleep Latency Test
Diagnostic Daytime Multiple Wake Test
Two Night Polysomnogram with CPAP Titration
Split Night Polysomnogram with CPAP Titration
The type of test you get will depend on the specific issues you are facing.
You will be given a set of instructions by your doctor before your sleep test. These instructions let you know how you should prepare yourself for your visit. Patients are asked to refrain from drinking or taking any medications before the test. If you have prescription medicine that you usually take at night, bring it with you and ask if it will interfere with the testing. Always let your doctors know exactly what medications you are taking, including herbal remedies and vitamins.
Before heading to your sleep test, pack a small overnight bag. You will need your PJs, the clothing you plan to wear the following day, toiletries, shampoo and/or soap for a shower in the morning, and any books/magazines/music that you might want for entertainment before sleeping. If you are fussy about your pillow, it is a good idea to bring your own along for comfort. Be sure to avoid any caffeine or alcohol the day before your test, especially after noon. It is wise to take a shower before your appointment, but do not use any creams, moisturizers, perfumes, or other skin products. All make-up, nail polish, and fake nails should be removed as they can interfere with the testing equipment.
You may have already been asked to fill out a questionnaire before your appointment. If not, you will likely be asked to fill one out when you arrive. This will inform the doctors of your regular sleep habits and help them interpret your results.
At most sleep centers you will have a private suite which includes a bathroom with a shower, and, of course, the bedroom. There will be a central monitoring station which may monitor several rooms at once. When you arrive you will be given some time to get changed and become comfortable.
Once you are ready for bed the technicians will hook you up to a series of sensors. These electrodes read a variety of information which is later interpreted by your sleep doctor.
EEG or electroencephalogram – These electrodes are attached to your head and measure your brainwaves as you sleep. Different patterns of brainwaves are associated with different stages of sleep.
EMG or electromyogram – These electrodes measure your muscle reaction, indicating muscle twitches, leg movements, and many other movements typical of REM sleep.
EOG or electro-oculogram – These electrodes are placed above your brow and/or below your eye to measure the movement of your eyes as you enter REM sleep.
EKG or electrocardiogram – A series of electrodes on your chest to monitor your heart.
Nasal Airflow Sensor – This sensor is placed near your nose and mouth to measure the temperature of your breath and the rate of your breathing, which will detect any periods of irregular breathing.
Chest/Abdomen Belts – These two belts are placed around your chest and abdomen to measure the strength and depth of your breathing.
Oximeter – This clip is attached to one of your fingers to measure the oxygen level in your blood.
In addition to the sensors attached to you, there are monitors in place to video record your sleep and record the sounds you make as you sleep. Having so many sensors attached may seem uncomfortable, but most people sleep reasonably well while at the sleep clinic.
A sleep test is generally finished by 6-7 in the morning. As long as you have a minimum of 6 hours of testing time, most clinics are fairly flexible as to when you need to leave. You will not get your results immediately after the test. It takes a couple of hours to process all of the information that has been gathered through the night, and then more time for a doctor to interpret the results. Most patients hear back from their doctors within a week of the sleep test.