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What is a sleep study? What can it diagnose?

A good night’s sleep and healthy eating habits are two pillars of a positive lifestyle. If anyone of these goes wrong, you may start experiencing severe side effects. As you may already know, eating disorders are easier to diagnose than sleep problems. Therefore, if you are experiencing troubles resting, it is recommended to visit a sleep expert instead of trying to diagnose the issue yourself. The doctor will probably ask you a few questions and make you undergo a physical examination. In case he detects something serious, he will conduct a sleep study. In a sleep study test, a patient is observed through the night to conclude if he is suffering from a rest disorder like insomnia or RLS. For those interested in knowing more about it and what it can diagnose, the details are provided in the following sections. Have a look!

What is a sleep study?

A sleep study test is a non-invasive exam that observes the patient overnight for understanding what is going on in his brain and body. The patient is typically called to a sleep lab for taking this exam and set up for an overnight stay. While he rests, an EEG monitors his sleep stages, REM and Non-REM sleep, for identifying possible causes of disruptions. Things like eye movements, oxygen levels, heart and breathing rates, snoring, and body movements are also recorded during the process. This data is later forwarded to a technician and evaluated by a doctor. This is how a sleep study works. 

What are the various types of sleep studies?

There are various types of sleep studies that help in diagnosing sleep disorders. These are as follows:

Polysomnography: In this type of sleep study test, a technician monitors a patient as he stays throughout the night at a specialized clinic. During the test, eye movements, brain and muscle activity, blood oxygen levels, respiratory effort and airflow, snoring, and heart rate is also measured.

CPAP Titration: A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine treats sleep apnea. In this exam, the doctor determines the amount of air pressure required by the CPAP to facilitate breathing in a sleep apnea patient. The CPAP titration test programs the machine for home use and usually requires a second sleep study.

Home sleep apnea testing: The test can be taken from the comfort of your home to determine whether you are suffering from sleep apnea. It collects data about the patient’s breathing, heart rate, and other variables; however, this information is less than what is collected during polysomnography. 

Multiple sleep latency tests: The test is conducted to know how quickly a person falls asleep and how fast he enters REM sleep during daytime naps. The purpose of the exam is to primarily diagnose excessive daytime sleepiness that can be a sign of narcolepsy.

What is the purpose of a sleep study?

Your doctor may suggest you undergo a sleep test if you show signs like trouble falling asleep, waking up frequently through the night, or snoring. Going through with the exam helps you identify the cause of the said behaviour. Some physicians ask their patients to submit a self-report on their sleep troubles. However, since these are not wholly reliable, undergoing a sleep study test is essential. The electrodes placed on your body monitor brainwave, blood oxygen levels, and other things during the process. The exam helps in diagnosing:

  • Periodic limb movements
  • Narcolepsy
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Circadian rhythm disorders
  • Sleep apnea
  • Parasomnias

How much does it cost to take a sleep test?

Although taking a sleep test is a reliable way of determining the reasons for sleep troubles, several patients are nervous about the costs. There is no fixed amount for which a sleep test is conducted. The expenses can vary based on the type of testing used and what a facility charges. Typically, a small clinic does not charge as much as an established hospital. However, before visiting a clinic, you should still contact the facility and get a cost estimate.

How can you prepare yourself for taking a sleep test?

On the day when the sleep study test is to be conducted, you should get your regular diet and daily routine. Here are some things that you should keep in mind to make sure things go smoothly:

  • Do not take a nap during the day.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in any form like coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, or tea after the second half.
  • Do not use hair gel or hair styling products on the day of sleep study as they may interfere with the sleep recording.
  • Do not take cocktails or alcohol in any form after the evening because drinking can interfere with your rest.
  • If you are on medication, make sure to convey that to your healthcare provider. He might ask you to get off of it temporarily.

What can you bring along for sleep study?

It is common to wonder what things you can carry along with you when going for a sleep study test. For this purpose, you should contact your sleep centre and find out if they have any restrictions. If they do not have any particular guidelines, you should pack the same items you would for an overnight stay at your friend’s place or a hotel.

  • Medications you take before bedtime or early in the morning that your healthcare provider allows.
  • Favourite pillows or blankets without which you find it hard to fall asleep.
  • Toiletries you would need during the time.
  • If reading is a part of your bedtime routine, carry a book or reading material.
  • Your phone, charger, and earphones must be carried along.
  • Maybe some fruits to have in the breakfast if your sleep centre does not offer food.
  • A bedtime snack if you crave something right before bed
  • Comfortable sleepers and sleepwear for resting well.

You won’t be allowed to bring along your partner for the sleep test. However, children or patients with some health conditions can be accompanied by someone who would be allowed to rest on a rollaway cot. Remember that your room will be under supervision at all times.

Conclusion

A sleep study is undertaken for monitoring people who show signs of sleep problems. It helps determine whether you have conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, periodic limb movements, or any other sleep disorder. The cost of the test varies from facility to facility and should be enquired beforehand.

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