Sleep Study

What is a Sleep Study?

A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is a non-invasive diagnostic exam that measures a person’s sleep. It is used to diagnose and determine the severity of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome (RLS), periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), and other sleep problems. It can also be used to assess the effectiveness of a previous treatment.

Preparation for a Sleep Study

Prior to the night of your study, your sleep technician will provide information about what to bring, what to expect, and the schedule for the night. This will typically include the following:

  • Do not consume caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine at least 8 hours prior to the study.
  • No sleeping medications.
  • Shower and wash your hair prior to your study.
  • Wear comfortable sleepwear and skip using any lotions, perfumes, or colognes.
  • Bring any supplies you may need to get a good night’s sleep, such as reading materials, bedding, and a pillow.
  • Arrive at the sleep center by late evening, typically 9pm.

Sleep Study Procedure

Once at the sleep center, you will be taken to your private room where a sleep technician will begin to monitor your sleep patterns. This will include electrodes that are placed on your scalp (electroencephalogram) and face (electromyogram). The technician will also place a pulse oximetry probe on your finger to measure the oxygen levels in your blood.

After all of the electrodes have been attached, you will need to settle in for the night. Once it’s time to take a break, the technician will monitor the recording and wake you up. When it is time to wake up for the day, the technician will again monitor the recordings.

Types of Sleep Studies

There are two basic types of sleep studies: in-laboratory and at-home sleep studies. An overnight stay in a sleep laboratory is the gold standard where detailed studies of all parameters of sleep can be monitored.

  • Home sleep study – This type of sleep study is conducted remotely and does not require an overnight stay in the sleep lab.
  • Laboratory sleep study – This type of sleep study is conducted in a dedicated sleep laboratory and requires an overnight stay.

Risks and Complications of a Sleep Study

Sleep studies are non-invasive and relatively safe tests. Most side effects associated with the study are minor. They can include skin irritation from the electrodes, sleeplessness, or some slight discomfort.

Why Have a Sleep Study?

Sleep studies, such as polysomnography, are used to diagnose sleep disorders and assess the effectiveness of treatments. They can also help determine the cause of sleepiness, which can then be used to develop a treatment plan.

When is a Sleep Study Needed?

A sleep study is typically recommended if your doctor suspects you have a sleep disorder or if you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness. It is also used to rule out the presence of sleep apnea or other sleep problems.