What to Expect During Your Sleep Study

Posted Jun 21, 2012 by Kristen P. in CPAP & Sleep Apnea Info

Whether your doctor suspects some form of sleep disorder, or you’ve had a diagnosis for years, chances are you will be required at some point to undergo a full sleep study (known clinically as a polysomnogram) to either diagnosis or reevaluate your current sleep problems. Though the test itself will probably not be the most comfortable or relaxing night’s sleep you’ve ever had, your sleep study does not have to be a dreaded experience. Educating yourself about your experience and preparing for the possible experiences you might have will go a long way in calming your nerves for your next sleep study. Below are a few things to expect or remember for your first (or follow-up) polysomnogram:

1) Sleep Studies Have Many Purposes – Seasoned CPAP users may not feel they need a sleep study to continue their treatment, and undiagnosed individuals may not believe there is actually anything wrong, but regardless of your feelings about the study, remember this – a sleep study is an important procedure that is not prescribed lightly. Your physician truly believes in the need for your study – whether it be to assess your current CPAP prescription’s effectiveness or to find the cause of your sleepless nights – and it wouldn’t be prescribed for you if not totally necessary.

2) Prior to Arriving – An important thing to remember before your sleep study is to spend the day avoiding alcohol, caffeine or daytime naps. All of these things can affect your sleep in a multitude of ways. Also, pack appropriately for your overnight stay. Comfortable sleepwear, your personal pillow, and any other comfort items you normally need for sleep will be important in making your night as comfortable as possible.

3) Your Sleep Center – Many people who’ve never had a study done before worry about the setting in which they be asked to approximate a normal sleep. Some think of a hospital bed and wonder how they will ever sleep there like they do at home. While many sleep centers are affiliated with or located at a hospital, most sleeping facilities are much more like your bedroom than a typical hospital room. Sleep physicians realize that you need a comfortable atmosphere to truly sleep well and accommodate the room accordingly. You should have a relatively comfortable bedroom with accessible bathroom for your sleep study. Most are more like moderately-priced hotel rooms versus a hospital room. If you are nervous about your sleep study’s location (or just want to have an image in your mind of where you’ll be spending the night), arrange a visit to the sleep center during the daytime.

4) When You Arrive – On the night of your study, you will be given an arrival time. Make sure to be on time as there is much to be done in the way of preparing you. Sleep technicians at the center will ask you to prepare for bed fairly soon after you arrive, and then expect about 45 minutes of set-up time (though it can be longer for more complex studies) for the equipment you’ll be wearing to monitor your body while you sleep. You should generally expect to be monitored via an EEG (electrodes will be attached to your scalp, painlessly, with a mild paste to assess your brain waves and functions), a heart monitor, a snore microphone, a belt to measure breathes, and a monitor that assesses muscle movement. After all your wires and leads are connected, you may also be asked to wear a nasal cannula that measures airflow from your nose. The wires and monitors may be a bit intimidating at first, but try not to think of them as you attempt to get comfortable for your night’s sleep.

5) As You Go to Sleep – At some sleep centers, techs will have other patients to set-up prior to beginning your study. It’s important to remember that you should not fall asleep before your study begins, so bring reading material or, is applicable, watch the center-provided television. Try to relax and prepare yourself for sleep so that you will be ready to drift off as quickly as possible once your study begins. After your technician is done with the other patients in the center, you may be asked to signal to him or her when you feel ready to go to sleep. At this point, he will begin monitoring you and your sleep study will have officially begun.

6) Through the Night – The most stated concern that people have about their sleep study is that they won’t fall asleep. Most people do just fine, despite the wires and unfamiliar environment, but if you have a history of insomnia or are truly concerned about your ability to drift off, speak with your doctor about it prior as he might prescribe a sleeping medication. Also, another thing to remember (and this does vary from sleep center to sleep center) is that you may be woken up in the middle of the night and hooked up to a CPAP machine. Some centers perform a split-night study that accomplishes your diagnosis and CPAP titration all in one evening. Current CPAP users may be asked to complete the entire study using their CPAP at their prescribed pressure. This type of study helps determine how effective your machine and pressure are for your disorder.

7) The Next Morning – Tell your sleep technician what time you’d like to be woken in the morning, as there probably won’t be clocks in your room. When you awake, you will have all leads and wires removed quite quickly and will be given the option of taking a shower at some centers. After getting ready to leave, your polysomnogram will be complete. You will not receive any results or information about the study that morning, but will instead have to wait until after your doctor reviews the results.

Overall, the study won’t probably be the best thing you’ve ever done, but it certainly won’t be the worst. If you have more questions or concerns, remember to talk to your doctor about them. Be prepared the help combat any nervousness that might occur.

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