An in-lab sleep study provides a board-certified sleep medicine physician with the most complete evaluation of your sleep. You will be required to stay overnight at a sleep center, hospital or a hotel room.
An in-lab sleep study, also known as a polysomnogram, records your brain waves, heartbeats and breathing as you sleep. It also charts your eye movements, limb movements and oxygen in your blood. This data will help your doctor make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
A board-certified sleep medicine physician may recommend an in-lab sleep study to:
• Test for sleep-related breathing disorders including sleep apnea.
• Evaluate behaviors during sleep due to parasomnias
• Diagnose narcolepsy or hypersomnia along with the MSLT
• Titrate or calibrate the levels of continuous positive airway pressure in patients who receive CPAP therapy for sleep related breathing disorders.
• Determine why treatment for a sleep disorder is not working.
For some patients suspected of obstructive sleep apnea, the sleep physician may recommend a home sleep apnea test instead of an in-lab study. A home sleep apnea test uses different equipment that you can set up yourself.
An in-lab sleep study is the way to ensure that you have the proper diagnosis for a sleep disorder. Speak with your health care provider if you think you might need a sleep study.
In-lab sleep study – Preparing for an In-Lab Sleep Study
An in-lab sleep study involves an overnight stay at a sleep center, hospital or even a special hotel room. These environments are set up to make you as comfortable as possible so you can have a full night’s sleep. Typically, you will not need to report for your sleep study until the early evening.
On the day of your in-lab sleep study, you should:
• Try to follow your regular routine as much as possible.
• Avoid napping
• Eliminate use of caffeine after lunch
• Shower or avoid using hair sprays or gels that can interfere with the sleep recording
If you are on a regular medication, speak with your board-certified sleep medicine physician. Your doctor may recommend for you to temporarily discontinue using the medication.
When it is time to report for your sleep study, bring any items that you need for your nightly routine. Prepare for the sleep study as if you are staying at a hotel for a night. You may want to bring:
• Comfortable pajamas or clothes to sleep in
• A toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss
• Makeup remover
• Reading material
• Clean clothes for the morning
When you arrive, a sleep technologist will ask about your sleep habits. There may be a pre-sleep questionnaire for you to fill out.
You will have some time to make yourself at home. There will not be any other patients in your room. You will have a bathroom available to use, and you may have a television that you can watch.
In-lab sleep study – Testing Process & Results
When you are ready to go to bed, the sleep technologist will attach sensors to your body. The sensors, which are glued or taped to you, monitor your body while you sleep. These sensors are painless. Make sure to tell the technologist if you are allergic or sensitive to any adhesives. The sensors measure your:
• Brain waves
• Chin muscle activity
• Heart rate
• Oxygen levels
• Leg movements
The wires are long enough to let you move around and turn over in bed. At the start of the test, you will be asked to move your eyes, clench your teeth and move your legs. This will make sure that the sensors are working.
You are free to read or watch TV until your normal bedtime. When it is time for you to try to go to sleep, the lights will go off and a low-light video camera will allow the technologist to see you from a nearby room. If a sensor comes loose or you need to go to the bathroom during the night, the technologist will have to help you with the wires.
Many patients do not sleep as well as they would at home. This may be because of the sensors or the unfamiliar environment. This typically does not affect the results. Nearly everyone falls asleep during an in-lab study. In most cases, you do not need a full eight hours of sleep for the doctor to make a diagnosis. Occasionally, you may be prescribed medication to help you sleep during the in-lab sleep study.
In the morning the technologist will test and then remove the sensors. You may be asked to fill out a morning questionnaire that asks about the quality of your sleep and your experience in the sleep center. The in-lab study is complete once you are awake and the sensors have been removed.
Members of the sleep team will review and evaluate the information gathered during the sleep study. It may take several days to two weeks to properly evaluate your sleep study.
A sleep technologist will first score your sleep study by marking your sleep stages and identifying any events of abnormal breathing or leg movement. The board certified sleep physician will then review the results to determine what kind of sleep problem you may have. After the board certified sleep physician makes his diagnosis he or she will contact you to discuss the results.