What Is A Sleep Study And What Should I Expect?

September 17, 2020

What Is A Sleep Study And What Should I Expect?

Has your doctor advised that you get a polysomnography test, also known as a sleep study? If so, then you may be wondering exactly what this test is for and how it works. It doesn’t mean that you will have a stranger come into your home and watch you while you sleep. However, in most cases, it does mean a trip to a sleep clinic.

In this post, we will discuss why these tests are carried out and what you can expect during a polysomnography test. 


I Need A Sleep Study. What Is It?

If you have been having trouble sleeping over a long period of time your doctor may send you to have a polysomnography test. In cases where a sleep disorder such as Sleep Apnea or restless leg syndrome is suspected, having a sleep study will help you discover exactly what is happening in your brain and body while you sleep. 

A polysomnography is a non-invasive exam that is most commonly performed in a sleep clinic. It is done in a room that is made comfortable and dark so that it’s an ideal sleep environment. You will be instructed to arrive at the clinic for approximately two hours before you usually go to bed. 

This test has the ability to monitor eye movements, snoring, oxygen saturation levels in the blood, heart and breathing rates, and body movements. 


What To Expect At A Polysomnography

So, you’ve arrived at the sleep clinic. What happens next? 

On arrival, you will be greeted by your sleep technician. They will guide you through the procedure that you’re about to take and will discuss any necessary paperwork with you. Once you are ready to go into the exam room, the technician will attach sensors or electrodes to different areas of your body: scalp, forehead, abdomen and waist. You can also expect wires to be taped to your nose and mouth. 

These wires and sensors help to measure airflow and different aspects of movement while you sleep. Your designated technician will then monitor your data in an adjoining room and can assist you if need be during the night. These tests generally take about 9 hours to complete and you can expect to be ready to leave first thing the following morning. 

Many people often feel under pressure to sleep perfectly during a sleep study or worry about how to get comfortable enough to sleep at a clinic. There’s no need to panic. Even if you only sleep for a small number of hours, your sleep technician and sleep specialist will still be able to gather useful information to help in the diagnosis of your sleep disorder. 

Top Tip: Avoid taking naps or drinking caffeine on the day of your polysomnography test. It is also advisable to not put any spray or gel in your hair as this can make it difficult for electrodes to stick to your scalp properly. 


Doing It At Home? This Is How It Works 

In some cases, sleep studies can be carried out at home. If you are doing an at-home sleep test, referred to as an unattended polysomnography, there will be a number of considerations that you’ll have to keep in mind. 

While an at-home test will be more comfortable as you can carry out in the comfort of your own bed, these tests often don’t monitor as much as data as a sleep clinic test would. These sleep studies are designed to measure oxygen saturation, heart rate, snoring, sleep position and airflow. 

When attaching the equipment needed to monitor your sleep at home, you must follow the following instructions: 

  • Tape a thin wire to your nose and mouth to measure airflow
  • Place an elastic band around your chest and abdomen to measure breathing
  • Use a fingertip pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen saturation levels
  • Sleep as normal and remove in the morning

Depending on the instructions provided to you by your doctor, you may have to carry out this test for multiple consecutive nights. You will then send the equipment back to a diagnostic company that will analyze your data and send the results to your doctor. 


The Importance Of Sleep Apnea Diagnosis 

A diagnostic sleep test like the one mentioned above is vital for diagnosing sleep disorders such as Sleep Apnea. When Sleep Apnea is left untreated, it can have devastating effects on not only your sleep quality but your health also. 

Oftentimes, the symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea aren’t clearly apparent and can be hard for doctors to diagnose without further insights into how your brain and body react while you sleep. In order to make sure that you are achieving the quality sleep you need to function properly and live healthily each day, be proactive if you have sleep troubles. 

Seek professional advice from your doctor and get your sleep schedule back on track.

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