What is a Sleep Study?

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What Does a Sleep Study Show?

Sleep studies are critical for diagnosing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Sleep technicians use highly-sensitive equipment to track your sleep to determine any issues that might indicate a sleep disorder.

A sleep study is a comprehensive test that is used to diagnose sleep disorders in people. In-lab sleep studies require an overnight stay in a sleep study clinic. Sleep technicians carefully monitor and gather data on your sleep patterns. However, at-home sleep tests are also an option for patients who feel more comfortable taking the test in their own beds. Regardless of if you take an in-lab or at-home test, a sleep doctor will then evaluate the data and make a diagnosis.

Why Do You Need a Sleep Study?

Undergoing a sleep study is an ideal way to find out whether you have a sleep disorder. This study is used in diagnosing sleep apnea. An overnight sleep study measures data about the quality and quantity of sleep of an individual. The in-lab study tracks data like a heartbeat, brain waves, rate of breathing, and eye as well as leg movements.

What Are The Different Types Of Sleep Studies?

Multiple Sleep Latency Test

The multiple sleep latency test monitors how fast an individual falls asleep and enters REM. The multiple sleep latency test is undertaken to check whether the patient is suffering from excessive sleepiness during the daytime, which might be the result of idiopathic hypersomnia or narcolepsy.

Polysomnography

Polysomnography typically includes the involvement of an individual technician, who monitors the patient and looks for various factors like muscle and brain activity, airflow, respiratory effort, blood oxygen level, eye movement, heart rate, snoring, body movements and positioning.

Home Sleep Study

A home sleep study gathers the data associated with an individual’s heart rate, breathing rate, and various other factors. In comparison to Polysomnography, a home sleep study is easily accessible and more comfortable.

What Does a Sleep Study Show?

The in-lab sleep test, also known as a polysomnogram (PSG) test, records brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and body movements while you sleep. The doctor compares these measurements to normal sleep pattern standards. Erratic patterns in the data can suggest a sleep disorder.

What Does a Sleep Study Diagnose?

A sleep study diagnoses various sleep disorders including:

  • Sleep Apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Sleep Talking
  • Sleep Walking
  • Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
  • REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Restless Leg Syndrome

Who Should Take a Sleep Study?

Anyone who experiences difficulty sleeping should take a sleep study. However, most people may not recognize their symptoms as those of a sleep disorder. Be aware of the telltale signs of sleep apnea including:

  • Frequent morning headaches
  • Gasping for air in the middle of the night
  • Drowsiness during the day
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems
  • Loud snoring

What Equipment is Used During a Sleep Study?

At an in-lab sleep study, a technician or other healthcare professional will hook you up to several sensors, placed all over your body. These sensors are connected to wires that connect to a computer for proper monitoring.

Sleep Study Preparation

You must for a sleep study.

  • Be sure to discuss the medications you are taking with the sleep study techs beforehand.
  • Avoid any caffeinated beverages or alcohol before the test as these substances can affect the results.
  • Pack an overnight bag with things you use with your everyday bedtime routines such as a toothbrush and toothpaste and pajamas and a favorite blanket. These items can help you feel more comfortable as the sleep study time approaches.
  • Try to schedule the sleep study around your typical bedtime. This will help you fall asleep faster during the study.
  • Avoid naps. Napping can leave you too awake to complete the sleep study successfully.
  • Avoid using hair sprays, hair gels, or oils on the day of the sleep study. These substances can interfere with the electrodes used to measure and monitor your sleep patterns.
  • Try to make your sleeping environment as comfortable as you can while you are going through the sleep study.

What Steps Can Increase Comfort During a Sleep Study?

There are a few things you can do to help yourself be more comfortable during your sleep study, including:

  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeine too close to your sleep study
  • Wear comfortable pajamas
  • Bring your own pillow

How are Sleep Study Test Results Scored?

A sleep study will monitor and record when episodes of sleep apnea occur. Sleep apnea causes the soft structures in the back of the throat to collapse into the airway. This results in lesser amounts of oxygen in your bloodstream.

A sleep study will also record a nighttime total and an index of events per hour. This latter number is referred to as either the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) or the respiratory disturbance index. An index of 5 to 14 indicates a mild level of breathing–and sleep–disturbance. An index of 15 to 30 is moderate, and anything higher than 30 is severe. The associated drops in blood oxygen levels, known as desaturations, are also measured and categorized. Normal saturation is around 95 percent. A desaturation to 86 percent is mild, a reduction to 80 to 85 percent is moderate, and a drop to 79 percent or less is severe.

What to Expect Before a Sleep Study? – Day Of the Study

On the day of your sleep study, you should prepare to help ensure accurate results. Try not to take any naps so that you will rest peacefully throughout the study. Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeinated drinks including soft drinks and coffee so that you are not restless during the sleep study. Try to schedule your sleep study around your normal bedtime so that you will be as comfortable as possible when the study begins. Whatever pre-bedtime rituals you have should be maintained to tell your body you are getting ready for sleep. The goal is to mirror your normal sleep patterns as much as possible so that the test results reflect your typical sleeping behavior.

What to Bring to a Sleep Study?

If you are scheduled to visit a sleep center, you can bring pajamas or any comfortable clothing you normally wear to bed. You will want to pack a few items to allow you to fall asleep in a new place—including a favorite pillow or blanket. You may also want to pack morning toiletries, such as a hairbrush, toothbrush, and toothpaste, to get ready for the next day.

If you choose a home sleep test, you already have everything you need!

What to do Before Arriving for the Sleep Study?

For an in-lab sleep study, the clinic technicians will give you instructions before arriving for your sleep study test. Usually, you will be asked to avoid naps so that you fall asleep more easily for the test—particularly since this is a new environment. Try to avoid stimulants, like caffeine or alcohol, as they may disrupt normal sleep patterns.

For a home sleep apnea test, there is no prep! You’ll be sleeping in your daily environment, so just follow your routine. All you need to do is take the device out of the package, turn it on, and slip it into the mesh band.

What to do Upon Arrival and What to Expect at the Sleep Center?

When you arrive in the evening at the sleep center, a technician will set up the monitoring equipment. This includes attaching nodes and hooking up wires in many places across your chest and forehead. The devices may beep periodically or hum throughout the night. If it is suspected that you have sleep apnea, a CPAP machine may be used to improve your sleep. Throughout the night, a technician will make sure the data is transmitted properly. They also may check in on you as you sleep.

Can I Take My Prescriptions as Usual Before a Sleep Study?

If sleep during the study seems impossible, you can take a sedative. Be sure to alert the sleep techs at the study that you need to take medication to sleep. Let them know if you will be using a prescribed sedative or an over-the-counter product. Sedatives can affect sleep apnea and the researchers will need to be aware of their presence during the study.

As for other prescriptions you may take, you should continue your normal med regimen. Your sleep tech may ask about prescription medications you take regularly to determine if any of them have side effects of poor sleep.

How To Sleep in An Unknown Environment with All the Wires on Me?

  • While a sleep study lab may feel alien, there are steps you can take to make yourself more comfortable during the test.
  • Practice breathing exercises. Relax your mind and your body so that your awareness of sleeping in a lab does not keep you awake.
  • Make the experience like home. Follow your bedtime routines. Bring the things that you use at home when going to bed like your pajamas, a favorite blanket, or a pillow.
  • Prepare for the sleep study. Avoid naps, caffeinated drinks, and blue light devices so that you are ready to go to sleep in the lab environment.

What If I Need to Go to The Bathroom with The Wires on Me?

Patients needing to use the bathroom during the study need only to notify the sleep tech. He or she will unhook one or two central connections, which will enable you to get up and walk to the bathroom. It is best to try and use the bathroom before the sleep study begins to avoid any interruptions if possible.

However, a brief interruption in monitoring will not affect the sleep test results overall, so it is okay to occasionally disrupt the testing to go to the bathroom. Sleep techs are looking for long periods of sleep and the patterns you exhibit during that time to determine sleep disorders.

Can I Take Melatonin Before Sleep Study?

Discuss supplements including melatonin with your doctor, who prescribes your sleep study.

What are Normal Sleep Study Results?

Normal, healthy sleep in a sleep study will show that you successfully transition through the five stages of sleep:

  • Stage 1 of non-REM sleep: Reduced muscle movement and the slow movement of the eyes behind the eyelids.
  • Stage 2 of non-REM sleep: Slowed heart rate, breathing, and body temperature as well as minimal eye movement.
  • Stage 3 of non-REM sleep: Brain waves slow down, and body and breathing are at their most relaxed.
  • Stage 4 of non-REM sleep: The body becomes difficult to awaken at this stage with slower brain waves.
  • Stage 5: REM sleep: This is the stage of sleep when we dream. It is the deepest level of sleep. You must reach this stage of sleep to rejuvenate the body and mind.

What Do Abnormal Sleep Study Results Mean?

Abnormal sleep patterns will prevent you from reaching REM sleep, so you never get the restorative benefits of a good night’s rest. Most sleep disorders leave you shifting from varying stages of non-REM sleep. Over time, sleep loss will leave you fatigued and may lead to health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression.

What Happens During the Sleep Study?

During a sleep study, sensors are attached to you around the head and other parts of the body to monitor your sleep behaviors. While your test is conducted in a sleep lab or sleep center, there will also be a technician there to monitor your brain activity and more. The results will tell a professional about your unique sleep patterns—including how much time you spend in light and deep stages, whether you’re receiving enough oxygen, how often you awaken, and whether sleep is disrupted by factors such as arm and leg movements.

The results are then analyzed by a sleep doctor to determine if your sleep patterns indicate a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

What Will Happen If I Cannot Fall Asleep During A Sleep Test?

Normally, it is quite difficult to sleep in an environment you are not familiar with. You might be very aware of the measuring devices and sensors that are attached to your body. A valid sleep study requires you to sleep for a minimum of 2 hours. Sleep medications might be prescribed for those who are either suffering from sleep apnea or worried about sleep studies.

Can You Do a Sleep Apnea Study at Home?

Yes, it is possible to take a sleep study from home. In-lab sleep tests can be hard to schedule and can be expensive. Additionally, being out of the comfort of your own bed can alter your normal sleep pattern and therefore your results as well. Instead, you can take a home sleep study that Sleep Care Online offers. Take the test in the comfort of your own home. You receive the test by mail and therefore can take the test at your own convenience. You receive personalized care from a healthcare practitioner and additional follow-ups.

Sleep Study Test At Home vs Overnight Sleep Clinics

While sleep centers have traditionally been the norm, home sleep apnea tests are becoming increasingly popular. In 2017, after years of research, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a position statement endorsing the use of portable monitoring for qualified people.3 Home sleep apnea tests are now considered an effective and more convenient and affordable alternative to in-lab stays.

With the Complete Care Package from Sleep Care online:

  1. With the Complete Care Package, schedule a 15-minute telehealth visit with a healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms, upcoming sleep study, test results, and treatment options.
  2. A multi-night, disposable home sleep apnea test is mailed to your home to be completed at your convenience.
  3. A physician analyzes the sleep data and provides a prescription if needed.
  4. Schedule an optional follow-up appointment (additional fee applies).
  5. We connect you to sleep experts who can offer customized sleep therapy options, assistance in equipment purchase, and initial set-up.

How Much Does a Sleep Study Cost?

Sleep studies performed in sleep clinics or labs can get pretty pricy, due to the equipment, labor, and other factors. Taking a sleep study at home, like Sleep Care Online’s Complete Care Package, has plenty of benefits, including being a cheaper and more cost-effective approach to having a sleep test. Read more on this topic here.

What Does Sleep Study Insurance Coverage Mean?

Typically, yes, sleep studies are covered by insurance. However, it depends on your specific insurance coverage. We recommend that you contact your insurance provider to learn about sleep study coverage available with your plan.

Sleep Studies In a Nutshell

Getting proper sleep is important to overall health. If you have problems with your sleep habits or patterns, take the time to check the possibility of a sleep disorder. Home sleep studies are an accurate, easy, and effective way to get peace of mind and a good night’s sleep.

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