Sleep Studies

General

Sleep studies are tests that watch what happens to your body during sleep. The studies are done to find out what is causing your sleep problems.

Sleep studies can also determine whether you have a problem with your stages of sleep. The two stages of sleep are non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). Normally, NREM and REM alternate 4 to 5 times during a night's sleep. A change in this cycle may make it hard for you to sleep soundly.

Why It Is Done

Sleep studies are done to find sleep problems, including:

  • Sleep apnea, when an adult regularly stops breathing during sleep for 10 seconds or longer. This may be caused by blocked airflow during sleep, such as from narrowed airways. Or it may be caused by a problem with how the brain signals the breathing muscles to work.
  • Problems staying awake, such as narcolepsy.
  • Problems with nighttime behaviors, such as sleepwalking, night terrors, or bed-wetting.
  • Problems sleeping at night (insomnia). This may be caused by stress, depression, hunger, physical discomfort, or other problem.
  • Problems sleeping during the day because you work at night or do rotating shift work. This sleep problem is called shift work sleep disorder.
  • Conditions such as periodic limb movement disorder, which is repeated muscle twitching of the feet, arms, or legs during sleep.

How To Prepare

Before the test:

  • Try to follow your normal sleep routine during this time so you will not be too tired or too rested for your sleep test. Do not take any naps for 2 to 3 days before your test.
  • Take a shower or bath before your test, but do not use sprays, oils, or gels on your hair. Do not wear makeup, fingernail polish, or fake nails, because some of the test equipment will be placed on your face and fingers.
  • You should pack a small overnight bag with personal items, such as a toothbrush, comb, favorite pillows or blankets, or a book, to take along. You do not need to wear a hospital gown. You can wear your normal nightclothes.

How It Is Done

The sleep study will be performed by a trained sleep lab technician. The studies are usually scheduled for evening and night hours (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.). But if you usually sleep during the day, your test will be done during the hours you normally sleep. You will be in a private room and the test will be monitored from another room.

How It Feels

You will not feel pain during these tests. It may feel odd to be hooked to the sleep study equipment. The sleep lab technician understands that your sleep may not be the same as it is at home because of the equipment. Try to relax and make yourself as comfortable as possible.