Sleep Study Experience

Testing for a Good Night’s Sleep

A sleep study is a recording of data about your sleep and breathing patterns that’s helpful in the diagnosis of sleep disorders. Many people who have sleep disorders are unaware of their problem, and in some cases a family member will notice the signs before the patient does. Your physician has chosen to evaluate you for a sleep disorder through polysomnography (PSG) because you have shown some of the following symptoms: snoring, restless sleep, daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, anxiety or depression, hypertension, irritability, and morning headaches. PSG is a low-risk assessment of sleep cycles and sleep stages through use of continuous recordings of brain waves, muscle activity, eye movement and respiratory rate.

If you sometimes have difficulty sleeping in a new environment, you may wish to bring things to make your stay more comfortable. We provide pillows, blankets, etc, but you may bring your own from home if they make you sleep more comfortably. You may also want to get less sleep the night before to ensure that you are very sleepy the night of your sleep study. Please be sure to follow the instructions on your “prep” sheet as well. Unless instructed otherwise by your physician, be sure to take all your regular medications as usual. If you regularly or occasionally take medication to help you sleep, please bring it with you the night of your sleep study.

Testing Procedure

Although diagnosing sleep disorders on the basis of a single-night recording is common, more than one night of testing may be necessary to ensure accurate results. Multiple-night testing allows the patient to become more comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings and sleep more naturally. Also, intermittent events may be missed on a one-night recording. PSGs are conducted in a sleep lab. Our sleep technologist will place electrodes on your skin and scalp, and sensors to record your heart rate and respiratory rate will be attached to your chest. Sometimes other tests will be performed to determine breathing problems during sleep. Although this is a painless procedure, some patients may find the sensors uncomfortable at first. On your scalp we will place six electroencephalography (EEG) channels, which will monitor your sleep stages. Two electrooculography (EOG) channels will be placed near your eyes to monitor horizontal and vertical eye movements. Two additional leads will be placed on your chin (EMG) to help record muscle activity, which will help determine true rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. You will have a sensor placed on your neck to pick up any snoring or talking while sleeping. A small sensor will be placed under your nose to evaluate airflow to see if you are experiencing any difficulties breathing. Respiratory effort will be measured by placing small, elastic belts around your chest and abdomen. A sensor will be placed on your fingertip to also evaluate the oxygen level in your blood. Two leads will be placed on each leg to monitor possible leg movements while you’re asleep. After the sensors have been put in place, you’ll be asked to lie on a bed in your private room in the test center and then be allowed to fall asleep. The sensors will record wake and sleep patterns. The time taken to fall asleep is measured, as well as the time to enter REM sleep. Sometimes the sleep test is recorded by video camera.

Indications For CPAP

If your physician has indicated that you receive a split-night sleep study, a CPAP trial may be necessary. If the technician sees that you have adequate sleep time recorded and also notices enough signs of sleep apnea, you may be placed on a CPAP machine half way through the study. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The CPAP machine delivers positive pressure room air via a nasal mask. This positive pressure acts like an air splint and helps keep your airway stable, open and free of obstruction. If indicated, you will receive a trial of CPAP prior to lights out so that you will know what to expect should you need it later in the night. We have a variety of different masks, so please communicate your comfort level with your technician. There are occasions when you may not be placed on CPAP due to: events occurring too late in the night to ensure enough time to titrate you on CPAP, not enough sleep time recorded prior to initiating you on CPAP, or not enough sleep time seen while sleeping on your back prior to initiating you on CPAP. If it is warranted and all the above criteria are met, CPAP is usually initiated between 12AM and 1AM.

Interpreting Results

You should expect to have your results 7 to 10 business days after your sleep study. The technician will not be able to give you any preliminary results. You should receive a follow up call from your referring physician to go over your test results. Once your physician reviews your results, he or she will determine which therapeutic options are best for you. In many cases, one night of PSG testing can lead to a lifetime of better sleep.

Please note that your referring physician may not be the physician who interprets the results of your sleep study. If another physician interprets your study, that physician will file a claim with your insurance company and will bill for any remaining balance.