Patients usually arrive a few hours before bedtime. The sleep lab is a comfortable, private room with a bed, with surroundings designed to simulate your home sleep environment. Experienced, credentialed sleep technologists apply monitors and monitor you throughout the night.
What to Expect
You may need to cram for a history test, prepare for a science exam, or practice for a math quiz. But there is one test you can actually sleep through and receive more than a passing grade. You can learn a great deal of information about your sleep patterns during a sleep study that could help doctors diagnose sleep-related breathing and seizure disorders, sleepwalking, narcolepsy or insomnia.
A polysomnogram is an overnight sleep study during which brain activity, eye movements, oxygen level, muscle tone, heart rate and blood pressure are monitored. Sleep stages, amount of snoring, body position and general sleep behavior also are evaluated. This test may be recommended if you have problems going to sleep or staying asleep, awake often during the night, wake up too early in the morning, fall asleep at inappropriate times during the day or have been told that you snore.
Don’t worry about pre-test jitters.
Before going in for a sleep study you may be asked to complete a medical history questionnaire and keep a sleep diary to record your sleep habits. Most sleep studies are conducted at night so that normal sleep patterns can be studied. A sleep study room usually looks like a hotel room, with a bed and bathroom facilities. Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol as well as taking naps the day of your study because these could interfere with your ability to sleep. You can bring your own pillow, blanket or other items that may help you sleep.
You can ace this test.
When you arrive at the sleep center on the evening of your study, you will be asked to change into comfortable nightclothes. A sleep technician will then place sensors using water-soluble glue and tape to your scalp, face, chest, limbs and a finger. Elastic belts will be placed around your abdomen and chest, and a microphone will be attached to your neck to record snoring. The flexible wires allow you to roll in any direction without disrupting your sleep.
Just relax and you will be well on your way to a better night’s sleep. All the wires are connected to a small box that can be carried around if you need to get up. Most rooms are equipped with a small, infrared camera and two-way speakers so you can communicate with the technician if you need assistance during the night. Once you have fallen asleep, sensor wires transmit data to a computer located in a monitoring room where the technician will use a television monitor to observe you throughout the night. Most people wake up at a regular time after their sleep study. The sensors are removed, and you can return home. You will meet with your doctor later to review test results and develop a treatment plan if a sleep disorder has been diagnosed.
In addition to a polysomnogram, other sleep studies used to identify sleep-related problems include:
multiple sleep latency test, which measures how sleepy you are during the day
- maintenance of wakefulness test, which measures alertness
- ability to stay awake; and actigraphy, which monitors sleep habits
For more information about sleep studies, talk with your doctor or call 1-800-897-9789 for a free physician referral. You can also visit the National Sleep Foundation website at www.sleepfoundation.org