Sleep Apnea Study


Also called polysomnography, a sleep study helps doctors diagnose sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, insomnia, periodic limb movement disorder, and REM sleep behavior disorder.

Why Your Doctor Has Ordered a Sleep Study

A sleep study is necessary to diagnose sleep apnea. It is a non-invasive, overnight exam that allows sleep specialists to monitor the patient’s brain activity and body movements. A sleep study measures brain waves, heartbeat, breathing, eye movement, oxygen levels in the blood, snoring, and body movements.

A sleep study will reveal valuable information about a patient’s sleep patterns and help identify the cause of a sleep problem. The machines and equipment used in a sleep study collect very detailed information and provide a panoramic view of the patient’s sleep patterns.

Armed with the results of a sleep study, a physician will be better able to create a personalized treatment plan.

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How to Prepare for a Sleep Study

Patients should avoid caffeine (including coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) in the afternoon or evening before an overnight sleep study. Alcohol and any other substances that affect sleep should also be avoided.

Patients should refrain from taking any naps during the day. Before going to the sleep center, patients should wash their hair with shampoo only and avoid drying their hair or applying any hair sprays, oils, or gels. These substances may interfere with the sensors used during the study.

Patients should bring comfortable pajamas, a change of clothes for the morning, and possibly a pillow. Patients should pack the same items they would take for a stay at a hotel. If patients take medication, they should bring them as well.

Patients should speak to their sleep specialist about any medications they are taking, both prescription and non-prescription drugs. Certain drugs affect sleep and may influence the results of the study. Patients may need to gradually stop taking some medications a few days before the sleep study. However, patients should not discontinue medication without first discussing it with their sleep specialist.

What Happens During a Sleep Apnea Study?

A sleep apnea study is held in a hospital or sleep center. Once the patient arrives, a staff member will lead the patient to their bedroom. A technologist will then show the patient the equipment that will be used during the study. Patients should inform the technologist of any recent changes in their sleep and any other problems they have not previously discussed with their doctor.

The patient will then fill out any necessary paperwork and change into their pajamas. Once it’s time for the patient to go to sleep, the technologist will come in to confirm the wake-up time. Patients should let their technologists know of any early-morning commitment(s) that they need to keep.

Next, the technologist will apply about two dozen sensors to the patient’s head and body. The electrodes are connected to a computer and record the patient’s vital signs as they sleep. All of the devices are designed to be as comfortable as possible and will not cause any pain.

The technologist will be in a nearby room with computers and equipment and monitor the patient’s sleep all night. If the technologist detects a breathing problem during sleep, the patient will be awakened and fitted with a mask.

What Happens After a Sleep Study?

A typical sleep study produces about 1,000 pages of data and will require hours of work to accurately analyze. Patients will be notified once the results are ready and will visit their physician to discuss the next steps.