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What to Know About Sleep Studies

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Sleep is a restorative process that affects nearly all aspects of our lives - our health, alertness, memory, energy level and emotions. Everyone experiences sleep difficulties from time to time, however when you have persistent trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or feeling refreshed during the day, you may have a sleep disorder.

Sleep studies, called polysomnograms, are used to observe, record and evaluate a patient’s sleep physiology with a series of monitoring sensors. The study helps sleep specialists diagnose the problem and formulate a treatment plan tailored to each patient. In some cases, the sleep study can be done at home, but traditionally, the test is conducted at the sleep laboratory.

How do I know if I have a sleep disorder?

Patients may first have a full consultation with a Sleep Specialist, a physician who has specialty training in sleep disorders. Clinical evaluation includes a thorough history and physical examination with special emphasis on symptoms consistent with sleep disorders or on other medical conditions that may be worse during sleep (for example, certain types of lung disease or neuromuscular disease).

Some sleep disorders are treated with behavioral techniques; others require various types of medication; and other disorders such as sleep apnea, may require sleeping with a breathing mask. Proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment can greatly improve daytime performance and general health.

What is monitored during a sleep study?

The majority of studies performed in the sleep laboratory are full-night recordings of a sleeping patient's breathing pattern, heart rate, oxygen saturation, muscle tone and brainwaves. Analysis of this information can be very useful to the clinician in determining the true nature of a patient's sleep complaint.

In some cases, a series of monitored naps are performed the day after a night study to confirm excessive daytime sleepiness and unusually quick entry into REM sleep. Nap studies are only performed the day after a night study so that the quality of the night's sleep may be taken into account when interpreting the nap study.

What should I do to prepare for my sleep study?

Prior to your sleep study, be sure to pack a bag containing all of your regularly prescribed medications, comfortable sleeping clothes, toiletries for the night or next morning, a favorite pillow or blanket if you’d like and a change of clothes for the next day.

Additionally, try to avoid or limit naps and sources of caffeine during the day prior to your sleep study, eat your evening’s dinner before arriving and be sure to wash your hair with shampoo only, removing all hair products. This will reduce the chance of interference with sensors during the study.


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