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Sleep Apnea 101: Sleep Study

Sleep Study

Sleep Studies

To prepare you for your sleep study, CPAP.com has created an Introduction to the Sleep Lab video. To watch this video, click the "Videos" tab below. We recommend you view this video prior to your sleep lab visit.

Your doctor referred you to a sleep lab to be able to diagnose and treat your sleep problems. A sleep lab looks like a normal bedroom, but is equipped with instruments to measure your breathing and movements. During your sleep study, a sleep technician will make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible while gathering necessary information from a separate room. The results of which will make up your polysomnogram. You will have monitors affixed to your face and legs. These are not uncomfortable and are essential to diagnose you with Sleep Apnea or another sleep problem. During the night, or in a separate study, your sleep tech will bring you a CPAP mask to improve your sleep. Pressure will be increased gradually as you need more air to open your passageway.

Sleep Study FAQs

What is a Sleep Study (Polysomnography)?

The Sleep Study (Polysomnography) is the gold standard for the diagnosis or several sleep disorders including, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. The results of the test are referenced as a polysomnogram which is frequently abbreviates as PSG.

Polysomnography is conducted in a sleep center, hospital or in a person's home. The test is usually performed at night to record the person's normal sleep pattern. Electrodes are placed on the scalp, the outer edge of the eyelids, and to the skin on the chin in preparation for the test.

Characteristic patterns from the electrodes are recorded while you are awake with your eyes closed and during sleep. The time taken to fall asleep, time to enter REM sleep, movement, breathing pattern, and sleep architecture are all recorded using a computer.

The person gathering and scoring the data is called a Polysomnographic Technician.

What should I expect during my Sleep Study?

CPAPtalk.com has created an "Introduction To The Sleep Lab" video that explains the process of verifying, diagnosing and treating Sleep Apnea. If you are curious about the process or would like to know what to expect during your sleep study you can view the video in the Videos Tab of this page.

What is titration, as it relates to sleep studies?

If a sleep study determines you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you will need a "titration study" to determine the pressure level required to maintain your airway during sleep. A titration study may take place during the same night as your diagnosing sleep study or it may be scheduled for a later date.

Titration is a scientific lab term, meaning to slowly add a little bit more of something until you reach a desired effect. During your titration study, a skilled technician will monitor your sleep and slowly increase the air pressure on a CPAP machine until you are able to sleep without or with few sleep events (apneas and hypopneas). Your pressure needs vary throughout the night, so an overnight sleep study is required to prescribe you the correct pressure.

Your prescribed CPAP single pressure setting will be set to the highest level you needed during the night. By prescribing the highest pressure, your doctor hopes to prevent as many sleep events as possible. The downside of this approach is that you will have the highest pressure at all times even when it's only necessary for part of the night.

APAPs offer technologies which allow the pressure to be adjusted on a breath by breath basis, which you may find helps your therapy.

Do sleep tests require prescriptions?

Yes. Both CPAP.com and Traditional Sleep Labs work closely with doctors to make the transition of paperwork seamless for the patient.

Where can I get a sleep study close to where I live?

We provide a CPAPtalk.com tool to help you find sleep labs in your area. Simply click the link and enter your address or zipcode to find one near you.

Locate Sleep Apnea Services

How is Sleep Apnea diagnosed?

An overnight sleep study is usual indicated when seeking to diagnose if a patient is suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This sleep test, usually conducted in a specialized sleep lab by a sleep doctor and a respiratory therapist, is called a polysomnogram or polysomnography test; also known as a PSG. Signs or Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Often people are unaware that they may have Sleep Apnea or they do not realize they have difficulty breathing in their sleep at all. It is usually someone else who witnesses the person sleeping and having these events or obstructions, usually gasping for air or sudden stoppage of breathing while asleep, whereby they first become aware they may have Sleep Apnea.

Snoring is another big symptom but there are many people who snore who do not have sleep apnea. If snoring stops briefly and then resumes, that is a significant indicator of sleep apnea. Daytime tiredness or drowsiness, difficulty or lack of concentration, headaches, impotence or decreased sex drive, moodiness or irritability, lack of energy, acid reflux (gastro-esophageal reflux), restless sleep, tossing and turning, night sweats, memory problems, nighttime choking or chest pain, swelling of the legs in the obese, waking up foggy, groggy, or unrefreshed, anxiety, depression, increased urination at night; these could all be symptoms of Sleep Apnea. Some people first learn of the problem when they fall asleep at the wheel of a car, or are even involved in a car wreck or crash caused by the side effects of having untreated sleep apnea.

What is CPAP therapy?

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. CPAP therapy is the most commonly recommended, and the most effective, treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

A CPAP machine provides air at a constant prescribed pressure. The air is delivered to the person through a tube and a CPAP mask. CPAP therapy provides a constant airflow which keeps the airway open so uninterrupted breathing is maintained during sleep. The air stream eliminates Sleep Apnea events and allows the person to get a restful sleep.

The level of air pressure required to maintain your airway is determined during your sleep study. Your doctor will write a prescription for a CPAP machine set at that pressure.

CPAP therapy is delivered through a nasal mask that seals around the nose or nasal pillows which seal at the nasal opening. Full face masks are available for a person who breathes through both the nose and mouth. Many innovative and comfortable options are available and advances in the delivery of CPAP therapy are continually occurring.

For instance: Some machines offer a comfort feature such as FLEX or EPR technology. It provides exhalation relief, a slight drop in pressure at the time of exhalation to help make therapy more natural. APAP, BiPAP and BiLevel machines offer various levels of pressure throughout the night.

What questions should I ask at my sleep study?

  • Did I have any central apneas? How many?
  • Were there any comorbidities? What were they?
  • Did I breathe or leak through my mouth? How often? What do you recommend to prevent it?
  • Did I exhibit positional sleep apnea (PSA)? Was my apnea more severe in one sleeping position as compared to others? Is my pressure requirement higher in one position as compared to others? (Often sleep apnea is more severe when sleeping on the back.)
  • Is there anything else unusual about the results?
  • How will I know my therapy is preventing apneas?
  • I would like to own a data-capable machine and software to monitor apneas, hypopneas and mask leak. Will you help me with the appropriate prescription?

In addition to the questions:
  • Get a copy of your PSG. It is your legal right to have one.
  • Get a copy of your CPAP prescription. It is your legal right to have one.
  • Make sure the prescription calls for a humidifier with the machine.

What terms should I be familiar with before my Sleep Study?

You can check out our Learning Center Definitions Page to become familiar with some common sleep apnea terms.

Stages of Sleep

  • Stage 1: The lightest stage of sleep. Transitional stage from wake. Stage 1 shifts: The number of times the sleep stage changed to stage 1.
  • Stage 2: The first true stage of sleep.
  • Stages 3-4: The deepest, most restorative sleep.
  • Stage REM: The dreaming stage; Normally occurs every 60-90 minutes.

What are the symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

The following symptoms go hand and hand with Sleep Apnea:

  • Loud and frequent snoring
  • Periods of not breathing during sleep
  • Snorting, gasping or choking during sleep
  • Need to urinate during the night
  • High blood pressure
  • Morning headaches
  • Awakening tired in the morning
  • Daytime or evening lethargy
  • GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Drowsy driving, limited attention, memory loss and poor judgment
  • Personality changes
  • Weight gain, severe leg swelling, body mass index of 25 or more
  • Hyperactive behavior, especially in children
  • Decreased size of airways and large neck

What are the benefits of using CPAP therapy?

Successful CPAP users report improvements in:

  • Quality of Sleep
  • Quality of Life
  • Energy and Motivation
  • Mood & Disposition
  • Job Performance
  • Sexual Drive and Performance
  • Alertness While Driving

A failure to use CPAP therapy to treat Sleep Apnea may increase your risk for conditions linked to untreated OSA:

  • Hypertension (OSA increases your risk of hypertension by up to five times)
  • Stroke
  • Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

What are the health risks of untreated Sleep Apnea?

Untreated Sleep Apnea can lead to:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Cardiac Arrhythmia
  • Depression
  • Glaucoma
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Morning Headache

I suspect I have sleep apnea, what should I do?

Sleep apnea is a serious and potentially fatal medical condition. If you or a loved one suspect you have it, you should be tested as soon as possible.

  • Sleep Questionnaire. This is a simple test you can fill out and take with you to your physician visit. It evaluates you for the most common symptoms of sleep apnea.

    Sleep Apnea Screening Questionnaire

  • Sleep Study. A polysomnogram, or sleep study, measures many key metrics while you sleep. These metrics are used to determine if you have sleep apnea or a number of other sleep related conditions such as central sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

    To find a sleep physician or sleep lab in your area simply enter your address into our sleep services locator.

    Local Sleep Services Locator

    CPAPtalk.com has created an "Introduction To The Sleep Lab" video that explains the process of verifying, diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. If you are curious about the process or would like to know what to expect during your sleep study you can view the video in the Videos Tab of this page.

    If you have tested positive for sleep apnea, it should be treated. CPAP is the most popular and proven way to treat sleep apnea. Here is our advice on navigating the tricky process of getting effective equipment:

  • Get The Best Equipment. Watch Out! There is a significant difference between basic and high end CPAP equipment. High end equipment is generally smaller, lighter, quieter, less prone to leaks, easier to breathe against, better humidified and easier to travel with than basic CPAP Equipment. The key to CPAP treatment is comfort, choose wisely!

    Many traditional, brick and mortar CPAP providers will set you up on a CPAP and bill your insurance company. If this approach to getting your equipment is used, you will most likely be given basic equipment. This is because there is only one billing code for all CPAP Machines and very few unique codes for CPAP Masks. Due to this, the insurance company will pay your CPAP Provider the same amount if you get a high end or basic machine. Usually, the amount paid to traditional CPAP providers by insurance companies is not enough to cover the cost of high end CPAP equipment and the patient is left to make do with basic equipment.

    If you would like high end equipment, there are a variety of ways to obtain it online for equal or lesser cost than dealing with traditional CPAP dealers.

  • CPAP.com (CPAP Retailer). CPAP.com sells high end CPAP supplies and equipment direct to consumers. Many times buying with cash is less expensive than the copay and deductible charged through insurance. If you want a way around the hassle and low end equipment provided by insurance companies and local providers, this is a good choice.