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Sleep Disorders & Study FAQ's for Patients

Most people are not familiar with sleep laboratory procedures and equipment. Below, we answer some of the more frequently asked questions we receive about sleep disorders testing.

If you have further questions about your sleep study not addressed in our FAQ’s, please feel free to call us at 1-800-AWAKEN1. Our goal is to make your sleep laboratory experience as comfortable and productive as possible. If we can assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to ask.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

What is a polysomnogram?
A polysomnogram is a continuous recording of selected body functions during sleep. The test also records brain waves, eye movements, and muscle tone, which together determine the sleep stages. Heart rate and rhythm sleep movements, and snoring sounds are also monitored. For possible sleep apnea, we record breathing and oxygen level. Additional polysomnographic measurements can be made in people with other suspected disorders.

What sensors are applied during the recording?
Most of the sensors are tiny gold plated disks that are applied to the scalp and skin. Blood oxygen is monitored using a small, lightweight, cushioned plastic clip that is kept on a finger or applied to an ear lobe throughout sleep. Respiration is monitored by using a very thin plastic sensor that is placed between the nose and upper lip. Breathing effort is recorded using belts placed around the chest and abdomen.

Will the recording be painful?
No. If you have sensitive skin, you may notice mild skin irritation from electrode paste or adhesive. We use no needles during this procedure.

Who will be present in the laboratory while I am sleeping?
A trained sleep laboratory technologist will monitor your sleep from an adjacent control room, while you sleep in a private room. The technologist has the responsibility to make your laboratory stay comfortable and safe while obtaining a high quality sleep recording.

Will the recording procedure disrupt my sleep?
We will ask you to sleep most of the time on your back, whereas you may sleep in different positions at home. Also, most people find the sensors to be somewhat bothersome. We know that your sleep in the laboratory will not be exactly the same as it is at home. When we score and interpret your polysomnographic recording, we will take into account any disruptive effects of sleeping in the laboratory.

Will I be given a sleeping pill?
No. If you have very significant insomnia at home, your doctor may order a medication to improve your sleep in the laboratory. Since these medications may affect other aspects of the test, such as your sleep stages and your breathing, your doctor has to weigh those concerns against the possibility that you may not sleep as long without the medication. PLEASE REVIEW ANY CHANGES IN MEDICATION WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN PRIOR TO TAKING ANY ACTION. If you have any questions about medication, please contact your referring doctor.

What happens to my sleep recording after the test is done?
A qualified sleep technologist will score your test data, and a designated sleep center physician with expertise in clinical sleep physiology will interpret the results. The results will be forwarded to your physician, usually within two to three days after your study is completed. If needed, you may have a follow-up visit to the Sleep Center.

Can I shower at the sleep center before I leave?
Shower facilities are available at most of our facilities.

Why is your sleep questionnaire so long?
Our sleep technologists and physicians review your completed questionnaires. When our doctors interpret your test results in light of your complaints, usually we can better address your doctor's concerns and your problems. Similarly, please bring a report of any other sleep tests you may have had.

What should I do on the day of the test?

  • Since the sensors are placed on the skin and scalp, we ask that all patients shower and shampoo their hair before arriving at the lab. Do not apply oil, hair spray, or heavy conditioners to your hair.
  • If you are scheduled for an overnight sleep study, we ask that you remain awake all day on the day of the test - please do not nap on the test day.
  • Please eat supper before reporting to the lab.

What should I bring to my sleep test?
Use this checklist to assemble the items you will need to bring to the sleep center. We will provide all bedding including sheets, blankets, and pillows.

  • A lightweight cotton nightgown, pajamas, or any comfortable sleepwear you choose, preferably with a button down front.
  • If you would like, you can bring a favorite pillow, blanket etc. (Even teddy bears are allowed!)
  • Toiletries: comb, hairbrush, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste and shaving materials.
  • Clothes for the next day.
  • Any Needed Medications. Lab personnel cannot supply or administer medications.
  • A list of all medications you have taken during the two weeks prior to the test.
  • Do not drink any drinks containing caffeine or alcohol 4 hours prior to your scheduled appointment.
  • You may bring a book, magazine, or any other reading or work-related material.
  • Sleep study questionnaire that we send to most people before testing.
  • Insurance cards
  • Insurance Referral (if required)
  • Physician’s Order/Prescription/Referral
  • Drivers License or Photo I.D.

If you are excessively sleepy, have a relative or friend drive you to and from the laboratory. If this is not possible, use a taxi or other public transportation.

What causes sleep apnea?
During sleep the muscles at the back of the throat relax, in everybody. In some people the muscles relax so much that the wall of the throat collapses. As the person tries to breathe, no air can get in. Eventually the effort of breathing wakes him up for a short time, and this may happen over and over, more than 100 times per hour, or hundreds of times each night. This describes obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. The person is not aware of waking frequently to breathe, but even mild sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness, poor memory and concentration, and depression.

How can I treat my snoring or sleep apnea?
Most people who snore should lose weight, stop smoking, and stop alcohol intake. Losing weight, 10%-15% of body weight, usually improves a person's sleep apnea very significantly. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, is the treatment we usually recommend for people with sleep apnea. The oral appliance airway dilator is a newer treatment, often somewhat less effective than CPAP but easier to use. Most insurance companies cover the cost of CPAP, but some do not cover the cost of dental appliance therapy. Surgery usually is done for people with sleep apnea, only after other treatments have failed.

How severe is my sleep apnea?
To diagnose the severity of breathing problems in sleep from the mild end - which we call primary snoring, up to severe sleep apnea, we mainly rely on the number of times per hour that a person's brain waves show very brief arousals to breathe. This number may be referred to as the apnea/hypopnea index (AHI), or the respiratory disturbance index (RDI).

<<< Milder

<<< 

<<< Abnormal >>>

More Severe >>>

Primary Snoring

Mild Sleep Apnea

Moderate Sleep Apnea

Severe Sleep Apnea

RDI < 5/hr

RDI 5-15/hr

RDI 15-30/hr

RDI > 30/hr

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