Sleep Lab

sleep lab cartoon

For people who have trouble sleeping, snore loudly, are overly tired, or have chronic fatigue, often the first step to a diagnosis is an overnight stay in a sleep lab. If your doctor has ordered you to have an overnight sleep study (referred to as a polysomnogram) in a sleep center, here’s what you need to know about the experience.

What to Expect During a Sleep Lab Study

First, there’s nothing to fear when going for a sleep study in a sleep lab. More than 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder, and many of them have undergone a sleep study to receive their sleep disorder diagnosis.

The sleep “laboratory” isn’t what you might picture a laboratory to be at all. Instead, most patient overnight rooms are akin to a nice, comfortable hotel. So, think of your sleep study as a way to relax and “get away” for a night.

Your arrive at the sleep center with your bed gear in tow. This includes your usual get-ready-for-bed items, such as your toothbrush, toothpaste, and pajamas. Your sleep technician will help you get settled in and then set you up for your sleep study.

Your sleep study specialist will attach electrodes, which are simply small metal disks, to various areas of your body. These electrodes measure lots of things, including your breathing, snoring, muscle movements, heart rate, and brain waves. To monitor your breathing even further, a belt may be placed around your waist and chest. You’ll have a pulse ox attached to your finger, which will monitor your oxygen level and heart rate. None of these devices are harmful or painful.

The wires will be gathered behind you in such a way that you can move about, roll over, and otherwise change sleep positions unencumbered.

Once all of your sleep study devices are set up, you’ll be encouraged to relax for sleep as you would normally do. This can including reading a book or magazine or watching television.

You will be able to get out of bed to use the restroom by hitting a call bell to alert your sleep technician. Your sleep will be monitored the entire night, and in the morning a sleep lab technician will wake you and remove all the wires and electrodes.

getting ready for sleep

Sleep Lab Results

Your sleep study will provide important data on the quality of your sleep, including how many minutes (or hours) it took for you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up during the night, and if you stopped breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and periodic limb movement disorders are all sleep disorders that can be diagnosed from a sleep study in a sleep lab.

Once your sleep study results are completed, a sleep specialist will analyze and interpret the results to arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan, which may include using a CPAP machine, lifestyle changes, or medication.

The good news is that, according to the National Sleep Foundation, the majority (90 percent or so) are able to achieve better sleep with the help of a sleep disorder specialist.

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