Has your doctor ordered a sleep study for you, and you don’t know what to expect? If you think you may have a sleep disorder, your primary doctor or a doctor that specializes in sleep disorders may have set you up to go to a sleep center for diagnosis.
There are a large number of sleep centers located across the United States and their numbers are increasing. Sleep centers in the United States must be accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Sleep Study Costs
When a person goes to a sleep center, it is usually for an overnight stay. Costs involved for most sleep study tests range from one to three thousand dollars and often need to be repeated twice. The first visit is to diagnose the sleep disorder and the second to get accurate settings for any PAP machines that may be needed.
However, I did a first visit, and they wanted me to come back for a daytime “nap” study, since they didn’t find any problems through the night time study. So you could possibly need three visits. Health insurance generally pays all or most of the cost of the tests needed to diagnose a sleep disorder.
Preparing For A Sleep Study
Once an appointment has been made, many sleep centers send a sleep diary to the patient. The information from the sleep diary is used by the doctors to understand general sleeping patterns.
It is also recommended that no caffeine or alcohol be consumed after 12:00 p.m. on the day of the scheduled test.
Generally the patient packs an overnight bag just as if they were going to stay at a hotel overnight. During the sleep study you wear your own nightclothes and you can use a favorite pillow from home. You can bring a book or magazine if you like to read before falling to sleep.
Most sleep centers resemble a hotel room and have a television to watch if that is what the patient usually does before going to sleep at home. Once you are relaxed, the sleep center technician starts preparation for the equipment needed to record your patterns of sleep.
Types of Sleep Studies
Usually, the diagnosis from a sleep center study is made using polysomnography which records a continual record of your sleep. However, this is not the only type of test. According to WebMD, the most common sleep studies are:
Polysomnogram. This test records several body functions during sleep, including brain activity, eye movement, oxygen and carbon dioxide blood levels, heart rate and rhythm, breathing rate and rhythm, the flow of air through your mouth and nose, snoring, body muscle movements, and chest and belly movement.
Multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). This test measures how long it takes you to fall asleep. It also determines whether you enter REM sleep.
Maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT). This test measures whether you can stay awake during a time when you are normally awake.
If your doctor thinks that you may have shift work sleep disorder or another problem with your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), you may have a test called actigraphy. For this test, you wear a device on your wrist that looks like a watch. The device measures your movement during sleep and when you are awake. It helps your doctor learn what times during the day you are active and what times you are sleeping.
Sleep studies usually are done in a sleep lab. But sleep studies also can be done with portable equipment you use at home.
In order to take a specific reading slightly more than two dozen small thin electrodes are pasted to specific parts of your body. They are placed under your chin, on your scalp, near your eyes and nose, on your finger, chest and legs, and also over the rib muscles and on the abdomen. These electrodes then record various types of readings during the night. Often an audio and video tape are also made to monitor sleep noises and movement.
Through The Night
Once all the equipment is in place the sleep technician leaves you alone to fall asleep. Even with all the equipment it is not uncomfortable. It is easy to move or turn onto your side. Each bedroom in a sleep center also has an automatic intercom so it is easy to call the technician if needed for such things as a bathroom break. When the sleep study is completed, the technician may wake you. Most studies that are used to diagnose a sleep disorder take seven to eight hours.
The reading are collected on a computer file called a polysonagram and are monitored and analyzed by the sleep technician during the night. The results are then sent for further readings to determine if there is a sleep disorder.
Although a sleep study may not sound comfortable, it’s really not that bad, and it is very important to determine and treat any sleep disorder.