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The Complete Guide to How and Why to Get a Sleep Study

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Sleep studies help doctors diagnose sleep disorders, such as Sleep Apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome. Your doctor may have recommended a sleep study if you snore or have other signs of Sleep Apnea and other sleep disorders.

Sometimes doctors order a sleep study test as part of CPAP titration study, which provides information sleep specialists need to calibrate your CPAP. The goal of a CPAP titration study is to determine the right amount of air pressure to keep your upper airway from being blocked during periods of Sleep Apnea. Proper calibration through a CPAP titration study should eliminate pauses in your breathing.

If you suspect that you might have Sleep Apnea, consult with a healthcare professional. Your doctor can review your symptoms and personal history, perform an examination, and run tests to help determine if you have Sleep Apnea or other sleep problems. One of the tests doctors recommend is a sleep study.

Depending on the nature of your sleep problem and your physical location, your doctor may recommend a home sleep study test or a sleep study performed in a sleep center. Your healthcare professional may recommend a sleep center.

How to Prepare for a Sleep Study?

There are a few simple preparations for a sleep study test. Avoid using any sprays or gels in your hair on the day of the sleep study, as they may prevent the electrodes from sticking to your scalp properly. Do not take a nap and avoid caffeine on the afternoon of the sleep study test, as they may interfere with your ability to sleep during the study.

Bring comfortable pajamas, and any medications or toiletries you may need, along with any books or electric fans to help you sleep.

What to Expect at a Sleep Study

Sleep studies done in laboratories measures the same things as home sleep studies, but they also measure brain waves, sleep time, and leg movements. Doctors can use these measurements to help diagnose and determine treatment for other conditions. Leg movements may be an indicator of restless leg syndrome, for example.

What to expect from a sleep study at a sleep center

Most people arrive at the sleep lab for a sleep study test arrive between 8 pm and 10 pm and leave between 6 am, and 8 am, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This allows about nine hours for the study, as most sleep labs prefer their patients to get about seven hours of sleep study time.

The sleep study test rooms at the sleep lab are less clinical than you might imagine. You may adjust the temperature of the room. You may notice cameras in the room, which record everything. The room will be dark.

A sleep technician will attach electrodes to your scalp and put an elastic band around your abdomen and waist. The technician will also tape wires to your nose and mouth to measure airflow. The test is painless and non-invasive. That means there are no needles.

In some cases, you may be able to choose between doing a home sleep study and going to a sleep center. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. A home sleep study is less expensive and more convenient because you get to sleep at home, for example, but a home sleep study may not provide all of the information your doctor needs. Furthermore, you have to obtain the sleep study test equipment and set it up yourself.

How Does a Home Sleep Study Work?

A home sleep study will measure oxygen saturation, heart rate, and airflow. It will also measure the movement in your chest and abdomen, along with recording your sleep position and the amount of time you spend snoring. A doctor might interpret these results to determine treatment for Sleep Apnea.

To take an at-home sleep study, also known as an unattended sleep study, you would apply the equipment as described in the provided instructions before going to sleep. In general, the steps include:

  • Taping a thin wire to your nose and mouth to measure nasal and oral airflow; some sensors look like a nasal cannula some patients wear to improve their breathing.
  • Placing an elastic band across your chest and abdomen to measure breathing.
  • Putting a small clip-like device, known as an oximeter finger probe, which evaluates the oxygen levels in your blood as you sleep.
  • Sleeping as normal.
  • Removing the equipment in the morning.
  • You will wear the equipment for one to three nights, depending on your doctor’s recommendations and provided instructions.
  • Send the equipment back to the diagnostic service company that issued it. Sleep specialists from that company will download, process, and interpret the results of your test.
  • The diagnostic service company will send the test results to your doctor or ordering physician.
  • Your doctor will discuss the results with you.

There are many things to consider when choosing a product for a home sleep study test. Perhaps most importantly, the product should provide accurate results. It should also be easy to use, manufactured by a reputable company, and have sensors that detect body position and Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

The professional journal for sleep specialists, Sleep Review, published a Home Sleep Testing (HST) Devices Side-by-Side Comparison Guide in October of 2017. This guide compared 14 home sleep testing products for the cost to buy, cost to rent, warranty, cost of consumables, type, channels, dimensions, weight, power source, memory storage, recording time capacity, and more.

What if I Can’t Sleep?

While many people worry that they will not be able to sleep during the study, almost everybody eventually falls asleep, even if it may take a little longer than usual.

Can you watch TV during a sleep study?

Yes, you can watch TV for about an hour before the sleep study begins.

How Accurate are Sleep Studies?

The tests conducted in sleep studies are the most accurate for the diagnosis of Sleep Apnea, according to the American Sleep Association. The accuracy of the sleep study depends largely on the number of measurements included.

Polysomnogram is the most common sleep study for the accurate diagnosis of Sleep Apnea, and it records your eye movements, brain activity, blood pressure, heart rate, air movement through your nostrils, the level of oxygen in your blood, chest movements and even snoring. Tests that record fewer measurements may not be as accurate in the diagnosis of Sleep Apnea or other sleep disorders.

How Much Does a Sleep Study Cost?

Home sleep studies can cost between $150 and $500, according to the American Sleep Association. Most insurance companies typically cover these tests when deemed medically necessary. A sleep study in a lab can cost about $1300, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

For more useful APAP, CPAP and Sleep Apnea information, please subscribe to our CPAP.com newsletter. You can find details about savings on equipment there too.

  • David Repasky

    David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it's like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient's perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.

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