What Is A Sleep Study?
Sleep studies are tests that monitor how well you sleep and identify any potential sleep disorders. They’re typically done at a sleep center or lab, but can also be conducted at home using portable equipment. Sleep studies help diagnose conditions like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and insomnia. They are ordered by a physician when symptoms such as snoring, daytime fatigue, or irregular sleep patterns interfere with daily life.
Reasons for Sleep Studies
There are several reasons your doctor may recommend a sleep study:
- Diagnose Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. A sleep study monitors breathing and oxygen levels to detect apnea episodes.
- Evaluate Treatment Effectiveness – Sleep studies are done before and after beginning sleep apnea treatment to ensure devices like CPAP machines are working properly.
- Understand Sleep Patterns – Brain wave, eye movement, heart rate, and muscle activity monitoring during sleep studies show the amount of time spent in each sleep stage. This helps diagnose issues like restless leg syndrome.
- Identify Underlying Medical Conditions – Some heart, neurological, or lung diseases can disrupt sleep. A study can pinpoint if an underlying condition is impacting your rest.
Types of Sleep Studies
Polysomnography, also called PSG, is an overnight sleep study that involves monitoring the body during sleep. It’s a comprehensive test that records your brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rate and rhythm, breathing, eye and leg movements, and muscle tone. Video recording may also be used. PSG gives doctors a detailed look at how well you sleep, if you reach the right sleep stages, and if any sleep disorders are present. It may be performed at a sleep center/lab or at home using portable equipment.
Multiple Sleep Latency Test
The multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) is used to measure excessive daytime sleepiness and help diagnose disorders like narcolepsy. During an MSLT, you will lie down in a quiet, dark room and try to fall asleep every two hours throughout the day under observation. The time it takes you to reach various stages of sleep is recorded. People without excessive sleepiness usually take about 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. People with disorders like narcolepsy may fall asleep faster.
Actigraphy testing involves wearing a small monitor or accelerometer device on the wrist that records movement. This device collects data on your sleep-wake cycles, how restless you are during sleep, and how much time you actually spend sleeping over multiple nights. The activity data is then downloaded and interpreted to evaluate sleep quality and diagnose issues like insomnia or restless leg syndrome without staying overnight in a sleep lab.
Preparing for a Sleep Study
To get the most accurate results from your sleep study, your doctor will recommend:
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and certain medications before the test
- Maintaining your usual sleep routine in the days leading up to the study
- Arriving on time at the sleep center or lab for the setup of sensors and electrodes
- Expecting to spend the full night so technicians can monitor the entire sleep period
What to Expect During the Sleep Study
Here’s what you can expect at the start of your overnight sleep study:
- Electrodes will be attached to your scalp and face to monitor brain waves during sleep stages.
- Additional sensors will be placed on your chest, fingers, and legs to track breathing, heart activity, and restlessness.
- Video or audio recordings may be used to correlate your sleep behaviors with sensor readings.
- The setup takes about an hour, after which you will be allowed to sleep as normal while monitored by technicians.
- Staff may wake you during the night to reconnect sensors that fall off during sleep.
After the Sleep Study
Once complete, the data collected during your sleep study will be analyzed by a board-certified sleep medicine physician like Dr. Stephen Ura at Nashua’s Center for Dental Sleep Health. A report will be created summarizing the sleep stages and cycles you experienced and noting any events or abnormalities. You’ll then have a follow-up appointment to review the results and develop a treatment plan if needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I bring to an overnight sleep study?
You should bring comfortable pajamas or sleepwear to change into. Also bring any toiletries, medications, or supplements you need to take before bed. If you use an eye mask or earplugs to sleep, you may want to bring those as well. Some labs provide bedding, but you can also bring your pillow, blanket, or sheets if it makes you more comfortable.
Will I be able to sleep hooked up to all that equipment?
The sleep technicians are specially trained to make sure all the sensors and electrodes attached to your head, face, chest, and limbs don’t prevent you from falling asleep. At first, it may feel a little odd or cumbersome. However, most patients can relax and eventually fall asleep relatively normally despite all the equipment. The techs will ensure everything is secure but comfortable.
How do I prepare the room for a home sleep test?
To get accurate home sleep study results, remove any extra pillows, blankets, or other items that may get in the way of the equipment. Pets should be kept outside of the room. Make sure there are accessible power outlets to plug in the device. Dim any disruptive lights and sleep alone without a bed partner if possible. Keep the room quiet, dark, and temperature controlled.
How long does it take to get sleep study results?
It typically takes one to two weeks after the study is completed for a physician who specializes in sleep medicine to carefully analyze all the data collected and issue a comprehensive report. Some labs may offer rapid analysis for an additional fee to expedite results within 72 hours. Follow up with your doctor about a timeline.
Take Control of Your Sleep Health
If you regularly experience symptoms like snoring, fatigue, or insomnia that are impacting your daily life, a sleep study may help provide answers. Contact our Nashua, NH office today at (603) 237-1124 to discuss your needs and see if a sleep study is right for you.
You can also request more information by filling out our online contact form, and a staff member will get back to you shortly. We welcome new and returning patients in Hudson, Merrimack, and Milford, NH.