A sleep study is an overnight examination conducted by doctors and technicians in a specialized laboratory or clinic to monitor your body and brain waves during sleep and diagnose sleep disorders. Since it’s natural to only find comfort in our premises, the thought of needing to sleep in a strange environment might be a cause of concern for some people.
There are many steps doctors take to ensure the study goes smoothly. Consequently, there’s nothing to worry about if you can’t fall asleep due to discomfort or stress — let us explain why.
If you can’t fall asleep during a sleep study, doctors will administer a light sedative or allow you to take melatonin to help you doze off. You also don’t need a night’s sleep, as only two hours of sleep data are required for the test to be valid.
What Is a Sleep Study?
A sleep study, also called polysomnography, is a comprehensive, non-invasive test conducted by professionals in a monitored environment, typically a hospital sleep laboratory or sleep center, to diagnose sleep disorders.
During this test, you’ll have to sleep while an electroencephalogram, a machine that records brain activity via sensors placed on your scalp, monitors your sleep stages and cycles.
The cycles are rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement, and there’s a significant difference in brain wave patterns and eye movement between each.
Sleep studies will also monitor your snoring, heart and breathing rate, muscle tone, and the oxygen level in your blood. The data from your sleep study is then collected by a technologist and assessed by your doctor, who will discuss it with you in a follow-up session.
Why Do I Need a Sleep Study?
Your doctor might recommend a sleep study if you complain that your sleep quality is diminishing to the point of significantly impacting your daily life. However, while they’re necessary to diagnose several sleep disorders, they’re not prescribed in all cases.
Most importantly, sleep studies diagnose sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition where the victim briefly stops breathing during sleep. But these studies can also uncover several disorders.
For example, if you’re an insomniac or tend to wake up often during the night, something could be wrong — especially if you wake up gasping for air. Or, if you’re an excessive daytime sleeper, you could be suffering from narcolepsy or hypersomnia.
You might also notice how, although you sleep all night, you always wake up exhausted the next day and remain tired throughout. These are all valid reasons for concern, and you might need a sleep study to get to the bottom of the problem and treat it.
Your doctor will help determine whether a sleep study is best for you.
What If I Can’t Sleep During a Sleep Study?
Fortunately, you don’t need a night’s sleep for your study to be deemed valid. Instead, only two hours of sleep are required, and doctors will ensure you’re comfortable enough to fall asleep during the process.
If you’re unable to, be it due to stress, fear, or discomfort, your doctor may allow you to take melatonin to help you sleep. In some cases, you might be administered a light sedative. Remember that you’ll be surrounded by professionals who will go to any length to ascertain that everything goes well!
Types of Sleep Studies
There are a few sleep study types, each concerned with specific disorders.
- Polysomnography: In polysomnography, you’ll stay overnight in a specialized clinic where a technician monitors your sleep. Various functions are monitored, and over a hundred pages of data are collected for your doctor to assess, including your breathing and heart rate, eye movement, muscle tone, snoring, and brain activity.
- Multiple Sleep Latency Test: During MSLT, you’ll be given a few opportunities to sleep during normal wake times. A technician will monitor how long it takes you to fall asleep and enter the rapid eye movement phase. This test is primarily concerned with diagnosing excessive daytime sleepiness and its root cause.
- CPAP Titration: Continuous positive airway pressure is a common way to treat sleep apnea. Its goal is to determine the amount of air pressure the patient needs from their CPAP to properly program their machine at home. It also usually requires a second sleep study to assess the changes in sleep quality.
- Home Sleep Apnea Testing: The HSAT, also called portable monitoring or out-of-center sleep test, is conducted at home without the supervision of a technician. A variety of functions are monitored during this test, such as breathing and heart rate, but it produces less data than polysomnography.
How Much Does a Sleep Study Cost?
The cost of a sleep study will vary depending on your doctor’s diagnosis and the facility responsible for providing the means to undertake the said test. Prices will vary significantly from one hospital to another, with smaller clinics typically charging less than bigger hospitals.
For exact numbers, it’d be best to speak directly to the clinic where the study will be conducted. Moreover, you should also consider your medical insurance, as it’ll help make the final bill more manageable.
Sleep studies aren’t necessary in all cases, but they’re a reliable way to diagnose and hopefully treat sleep disorders. If you suffer from any sleep disorder, consider discussing your symptoms with your doctor. They’ll help you determine the next steps for your care and guide you through the process.
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