Although falling asleep may come naturally to most of us, this is not the case for everyone. Most people have trouble falling asleep, while others may feel drowsy during the day after getting a peaceful night’s sleep. These disorders are prevalent in both the elderly and children.
However, what is a sleep study and does it have any impact on sleeping patterns? I was curious to find out, and this is what I found.
Your doctor may suggest that you go for a sleep study. Below is a look at what a sleep study entails, and why you may need to go for one if you have sleep troubles.
What is a Sleep Study?
Sleep study also polysomnography is a test that tracks your brain waves, heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels in your blood to diagnose sleep disorders. The analysis also evaluates your leg and eye movements.
Polysomnography takes place at a sleep center or within a hospital. You may need to come for the sleep study during the day if you often sleep during the day. Going through a sleep study may also help improve your treatment plan if you previously had a sleep disorder diagnosis.
Why is a Sleep Study Done?
Falling asleep starts with non-rapid eye movement, a sleep stage where electroencephalography records your brain waves. Your eyes do not move during this stage, which is different from other steps. An hour in non-rapid eye movement allows your brain activity to peak; this is where rapid eye movement begins.
It’s at this stage where dreaming happens.
You may go through different sleep cycles, interchanging between non-rapid eye movement and rapid
eye movement in ninety minutes. Sleep problems distort this process. Going through polysomnography allows the doctor to monitor the different sleep cycles and stages. It also allows the doctor to know when or if your sleep patterns have an issue and the reason behind the occurrence.
Also, the doctor may suggest a sleep study if he thinks you have:
While you may wonder why you need to go through polysomnography, it’s only a doctor who can tell what happens while you’re asleep. For example, individuals with snoring problems do not know they have a problem until someone points it out.
You may not be aware that certain things happen when you’re sleeping that could be interfering with your sleep cycle. Going through a polysomnographic evaluation is vital as it helps you discover what happens during sleep.
What Can You Expect During a Sleep Study?
Sleep studies are categorized into three types mainly polysomnogram or PSG, Multiple Sleep Latency Test, and the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test or MWT. PSG or polysomnogram is a common test that records oxygen levels, heart rate, brain activity, and other aspects. It can help diagnose sleep-related seizures, sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness, and sleep-related movement disorders.
Multiple Sleep Latency Test occurs during the day and helps to determine if breathing treatments are working or how sleepy you get during the day. The test follows a polysomnogram and records if you fall asleep during the evaluation. During the test, a technician gives you nap opportunities with a space of two hours as he observes your eye movements and brain activity. The test is standard for those with narcolepsy.
Maintenance of Wakefulness Test is another daytime sleep study that checks your alertness during the day and your ability to stay awake. These tests occur after a polysomnogram and help check if your sleepiness can pose a safety concern. The results are crucial for people who work in industries like public transportation and machine operation. Some of the stages you can expect to go through during polysomnography include:
Before the Study
The sleep study begins when you get to the hospital or a sleep center in the evening and stay overnight.
You can carry your nightclothes or other items for your bedtime routine like sleep masks cuddle bear. Polysomnography takes place in a quiet and dark room. Moreover, you don’t share the room with another person, and each room comes equipped with its bathroom.
However, the room has a low-light video camera that allows polysomnography technologists to monitor your reactions when sleeping. The room also comes equipped with an audio system, which enables the technologists to talk to you and hear from the other end.
During the Test
Once you’re ready for sleep, a technologist places sensors on the scalp, chest, and legs using tape or glue. These sensors are wired to a computer. However, you can freely move around without worrying about the wires interfering with your movements. The technologist also places a clip on your ear or finger to check the oxygen levels in your blood.
During your sleep, the technologist may carry out an electroencephalogram or EEG test; this measures any electoral activity in the brain. You may have electrodes attached to your head. Moreover, you may have sticky pads on the shins to check your muscle movements and cloth belts that move from the chest and back to measure breathing. You may have a mask fitted if you use a continuous positive airway pressure at night.
Afterward, the technologist allows you to rest. During this period, you can listen to music, read, and watch TV as you would at home. It’s critical to fall asleep at your usual bedtime. Note that the technician may test the equipment; you may take part in the testing. The technologist will ask you to move your legs, breath in and out, close or open your wires, or make sounds. Anything with a problem is fixed after these tests.
Through the Test
A technologist observes your heart rate, brain waves, breathing pattern, eye movements, body position, and your blood oxygen levels. Also, he/she may check your chest movement, limb changes, and for noises, you make while asleep. These technicians monitor you through the night, and they are available to provide help.
After the Test
The sleep technologist wakes you up at your usual wake-up time, removes the electrodes, and you may have to complete a questionnaire before you leave. You can opt to get ready for work at the sleep center or go home and prepare for work or other activities for the day.
What if you Can’t Sleep During the Sleep Study?
Most people are anxious and nervous spending a night in a new environment or having electrodes attached to their heads as they sleep. It’s normal to experience these issues when you’re in an unfamiliar space, but this doesn’t interfere with the test results.
You’ll be surprised that most people sleep well under a sleep study, although they did not anticipate any sleep. Some patients may spend up to two nights in the center to undergo more tests.
The doctor may suggest the multiple sleep latency test during the day to check for sleep apnea. Nonetheless, when you focus on the benefits of the study and have a positive mindset, you’ll be able to sleep during the evaluation.
The results take seven to ten days after the doctor review. These reports may contain lots of data on everything that happened while you were asleep. Most polysomnograms check your sleep efficiency, oxygen desaturation index, apnea-hypopnea index, and your heart rate. You’ll have to visit your doctor to review these results and discuss the treatment options.
Sometimes you may have to repeat a sleep study if you’ve changed in your health. For example, if you’ve lost or gained weight, you may need to go through another sleep study. Weight loss may alleviate sleep apnea, while weight gain may worsen sleep apnea.
Also, if you experience symptoms that did not manifest during your initial diagnosis, you may need to go through another sleep assessment. Strange sleep behaviors and restless leg syndrome are some reasons you may need another evaluation.
Your doctor may require you to undergo a second sleep study to check how a recommended treatment plan works. For example, you may have an oral appliance that aids with breathing as you sleep. The study helps to check how the appliance work and if the device is a useful tool that can help resolve the sleep issue.
We hope that the article has answered your question of what is a sleep study. A sleep study is a comprehensive, yet detailed process that can help evaluate your bedtime patterns and health. Talk to your doctor to understand what to expect and how to prepare for the session.