What Really Happens During a Sleep Study?

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You may have heard of a sleep study, and maybe even have a general idea about what it is. But there are a lot of misconceptions out there, not to mention the thought of being studied while asleep is a bit unsettling. Rest assured, though. A sleep study is nothing like the alien abduction probing scenario you might have in your imagination.

Why should I do a sleep study?

The scientific name for a sleep study test is a polysomnography, or a PSG. During your PSG, a sleep specialist will watch for a number of different events, including brain wave activity, eye movement, muscle tone, heart rhythm, and breathing.

You may want to consider having a sleep study done if you frequently snore. Snoring is a problem, both for you and anyone sleeping close by. It can also be a warning that a more serious problem is lurking. A sleep study can address these problems by helping doctors identify what’s happening in your sleep. If being under snooze surveillance makes you nervous, though, keep reading to get the facts and calm your fears. The unknown is scary, but knowledge is courage!

So what really happens in a sleep study?

Woman With Eyes Closed-MonitorA PSG might be performed at a sleep center, which requires a one or two night stay at the facility, but some sleep studies can be performed at home. This depends on the severity of your sleep problems as determined by your sleep specialist.Many people believe that the sleep test center is cold and harshly lit but, in fact, sleep studies are conducted in comfortable, hotel-like rooms to make the environment conducive to sleep. You can bring your own pillow, watch TV, read, and even wear your pajamas.

A series of electrodes and monitors will be placed on your head, chest, and legs. The electrodes are easy to get used to so they won’t hinder you from falling asleep comfortably. This will measure how many apneas, or paused breathing incidences, that you have throughout the night. It will also monitor brain wave activity, eye movement, muscle tone, heart rhythm, and breathing.

What does a sleep study tell us?

The results of your PSG may take up to a couple weeks. The test results contain important information such as:

  • Sleep and wake times
  • Sleep stages
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Blood oxygen content
  • Movement during the night

Some sleep specialists might give you a Respiratory Distress Index, or RDI, with your sleep test results. An RDI can tell you just how severe your sleep apnea is. A normal RDI consists of less than 10 apneas during the night. 16 or more apneas in a night may indicate sleep apnea.

Using this information and looking at your medical history, your doctor will make a diagnosis and a treatment plan that meets your needs. Though CPAP machines have become the standard solution for sleep breathing problems, there are many alternatives available.

OK, what happens next?

If it’s suspected that you have obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor will have you come in again for a second study using a CPAP machine. This second study would be to determine how much pressure is necessary to prevent an airway collapse.

Sometimes your disturbances are not due to sleep apnea, but another sleep condition like period limb movement disorder, sleep-related seizure disorders, or even restless leg syndrome. Whatever the problem is, a sleep test will help narrow it down so that it can be treated properly.

Listening to your body is important for managing a number of possible sleep disorders. Don’t keep yourself in the dark any longer; if you think there could be a problem, find out for sure with a sleep study. Make an appointment to discuss your unique sleep issues and schedule your sleep study with Dr. Pasha in Houston today.