A sleep study is a test that your doctor may suggest you undergo as part of the investigation to determine if you are suffering from a sleep disorder. It can be difficult to diagnose a sleep disorder during waking hours so many doctors rely on the use of a sleep study to gather information to help them diagnose your condition. However, walking into a sleep study without any knowledge of what they are or how they work can be very intimidating. The professionals here at Mark Levy DDS in Columbus, Ohio want you to be prepared for your sleep study so we’ve compiled everything you need to know about sleep studies for you.
A sleep study, also known as a polysomnography, is a key diagnostic test that is used for diagnosing several sleep disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and other night time issues such as REM sleep behavior disorder and sleepwalking. Due to the complexities of these issues and the fact that they are only observable while the person suffering with the issue is asleep, they can’t usually be diagnosed during a traditional doctor visit. Instead, to gather the proper information, your doctor will send you in for a sleep study.
A sleep study is a non-invasive test which allows doctors to monitor you overnight while you sleep to get a better idea about what’s going on in your body and brain as you rest. For the sleep study you will spend the night at a sleep lab. These labs can be in a hospital or may be an independent sleep center. For most sleep studies you’ll be asked to arrive approximately 2 hours prior to bed time. You’ll be placed in a private room that is set up to be comfortable for sleeping. The room will be dark to help encourage sleep. You can usually bring your own pajamas and even other personal items related to sleep to help simulate your home environment.
It will take about an hour for the sleep technician to fit you with the electrodes and sensors that will be used to monitor you while you sleep. Once the sensors are in place, you’ll have the freedom to use the rest room unassisted and get comfortable in the bed. The sleep technician will monitor you throughout the night, collecting data to pass on to your doctor for evaluation.
The sensors that are placed on your head and body will monitor many different things. An EEG will monitor the sleep stages that you progress through over the course of the night along with the cycles of REM and non-REM sleep. This helps to identify disruptions in your sleep pattern. Other sensors will be placed on your face to monitor eye movements and chin movements. A small mic will be placed near your throat to monitor snoring. Two elastic belts will be placed around your chest and stomach to help monitor breathing efforts and a nasal cannula with a heat monitor will track other breathing activity. A monitor on your finger will detect your blood oxygen levels during the sleep study. An EKG monitor will collect data on your heart rate and rhythm. Electrodes will be placed on each leg to measure your body movement throughout the night.
These sensors will relay the data that they collect to computers in an adjoining room where the sleep technician will monitor as you sleep. Before you fall asleep the sleep technician will speak to you via intercom to run through a few tests and make sure the equipment is working properly. While it may seem like it would be difficult to rest with so many sensors and monitors, very rarely is a patient unable to sleep at all.
In the morning, the technician will wake you and remove the monitors. You’ll then fill out some paperwork about the sleep study before heading on your way back home or to work. Many sleep clinics offer showers for you to use to be able to prepare for work the following day if you need to head straight to your job. Immediately after the study you will not receive any information about the data collected from the sleep study. Instead, all of the data is sent on to your doctor for evaluation. After reviewing the information from the sleep study, along with your medical history and other symptoms, your doctor will reach their diagnosis for your condition. In many cases, this portion of the process can take anywhere from one to two weeks. After you’ve been diagnosed then you and your doctor can begin discussing treatment options for your condition.