Nervous about a sleep study?
The idea of a sleep study can be intimidating. It means sleeping in an unfamiliar place, wearing more equipment to bed than you’re used to and being watched by a complete stranger as you sleep.
You’re may be nervous that you won’t “sleep your best” in the sleep clinic, and perhaps wonder if that will ruin the test.
Here’s a thought – don’t worry. This is a test you can’t fail.
You won’t be judged by how well you sleep or don’t sleep.
Why Get a Sleep Study?
The proper name for a sleep study is called “polysomnography.”
This study specifically monitors body functions including electric signals in the brain, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rhythm and breathing function during your sleep study.
The whole purpose of this “test” is to study your sleep patterns and find out if and when your sleep is interrupted. You sleep doctor can then use this information to identify what’s causing the problem. Oftentimes, you may have other related forms of sleep disruption caused by Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) or some form of sleep apnea, both of which cause insomnia and can explain your trouble going to sleep and staying asleep.
What to Expect in a Sleep Study?
1. When you come to the sleep lab, a technologist will greet you and describe the test to you.
2. That person will place tiny wires on your scalp, chin, and a couple on your legs and arms. Don’t worry! You’ll look a little strange, but you’re not there for a beauty contest, and it doesn’t hurt! These “electrodes” will sense brain activity, eye movements, and muscle activity, and allow the sleep team to see whether you have all stages of sleep, whether you’re breathing as you should when you’re asleep. If you wake up and need to go to the restroom, that’s okay too.
3. You’ll wake up in the morning and shower if you want to, and go to work or home, as you wish. You’d be amazed, but people really do sleep pretty much like they do at home. If you don’t, we will find out why. Your sleep is assessed “on the fly” as it’s being recorded by the technologist who wired you up. Then it’s scored by an expert scoring technologist and any abnormalities are noted. Finally, it’s reviewed once more, before it’s looked at, for the forth time, by a sleep doctor.
4. A comprehensive report is generated, and all aspects of your history are taken into account, perhaps even imaging of your airway, before a report is generated, and the test results gone over with you.
Whew! If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is. But it’s an absolutely critical step in arriving at an accurate diagnosis of your sleep disorder, whether it’s sleeping too much, or not enough, or doing things in your sleep that bother you.
How a Sleep Study Will Help
The information from a sleep study provides a great amount on insight into your sleep patterns. Your sleep doctor can use this information to be able to correctly diagnose and treat what is at the root of your sleep disruption.
For example, in the video below, the patient had a sleep study done. After the study, her doctor understood her problem and was able to properly treat it. She also makes a very important point about the mind games sleep disorders play. She thought that she couldn’t sleep because of anxiety and depression, when in fact it was a result of her problems breathing while asleep. She was treated with CPAP Therapy (CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, one of several treatments for sleep breathing disorders, that uses mild air pressure to keep the airway open so a person can breathe) for her sleeping disorder. This ended up also reducing her anxiety and depression. Plus, she got rid of migraine headaches and the four medications she was taking for them!
Do You need a Sleep Study?
Not everyone with poor quality sleep needs a sleep study done. Many times, a doctor will first use other measures such as a sleep diary to track sleeping patterns, a physical exam and/or review of medical records to determine the cause of the sleep problem. Based on this evaluation, the doctor will recommend a sleep study if they feel it’s necessary. So, if you’re experiencing poor quality sleep, the first step is see a sleep specialist who can help you begin to investigate what’s really going on.
The key to getting a correct diagnosis is finding a specialist to evaluate you. If you don’t have one already, read my tips of how to find a really good doctor