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What should patients expect in a sleep study?

A sleep study, also known as a polysomnography, involves an overnight stay in a sleep centre, where various tests will be performed. The sleep centre will usually be similar to a hotel, with private rooms that have en-suite bathrooms attached.

The room will be kept dark and quiet throughout the test in order to get the best and most accurate results possible. Normally the room will be fitted with a video camera, which will allow the doctor to monitor you from outside the room while you sleep. It may also be equipped with a microphone allowing you to communicate with the medical team while you are in the room.

Preparing for the test

When preparing you for the test, the polysomnography technicians will attach sensors to your body in places such as the scalp, chest, legs, and temples. These sensors are usually applied using either dissolvable glue or tape, which allows it to be easily removed in the morning. These are connected to a computer via small wires, which give you the freedom to sleep comfortably and normally. Sometimes, there may be a small clip attached to either your finger or your ear to monitor your blood oxygen levels while you sleep.

What are they actually measuring?

Many different measurements, which describe your body’s functioning, are monitored during a sleep test. These are usually recorded on continuous graphs that a doctor or technician will be able to analyse.  Examples of what may be recorded  include:

●        Blood oxygen levels

●        Body position and movement throughout the night

●        Heart rate

●        Eye movements

●        Brain waves

●        Breathing patterns and periods where you don’t breathe

●        Snoring or other noises that you make during the night

All of these tell a story to the doctor, and will allow them to form a diagnosis of the condition you may have.

Tips for a successful sleep test

Prepare for your sleep test as if you were going to stay overnight in a hotel. Pack all of your bedtime necessities, laptop, phone, a good book, soap, shampoo or  even, should you normally use one, a special pillow or blanket.

Bear in mind that the doctor might perform different tests during the night. An example of this is you may be asked to try using a PAP (positive airway pressure) device, a machine that is designed to combat sleep apnea.

The best advice you can take into a sleep test is to keep an open mind. Remember, that it is a medical procedure, so tests will be carried out and measurements will be taken, but most of all, try and remain relaxed.

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