The sleep study is a test that records the activity of the body during sleep. Sleep studies help doctors diagnose sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, insomnia, and nighttime behaviors like sleepwalking and REM sleep behavior disorder. Often these disorders cannot be identified with a normal office visit—your doctor needs to gather more conclusive evidence while you’re asleep. There are five main types of sleep studies that use different methods to test for different sleep characteristics and disorders.
The sleep study is a non-invasive, overnight exam that allows doctors to monitor you while you sleep to see what’s happening in your brain and body. For this test, you will go to a sleep lab that is set up for overnight stays—usually in a hospital or sleep center. While you sleep, an EEG monitors your sleep stages and the cycles of REM and nonREM or NREM sleep you go through during the night, to identify possible disruptions in the pattern of your sleep. The sleep study will also measure things such as eye movements, oxygen levels in your blood (through a sensor—there are no needles involved), heart and breathing rates, snoring, and body movements.
The data from your sleep study will usually be taken by a technologist, and later evaluated by your doctor. This may take up to two weeks when you’ll schedule a follow up to discuss the results.
Good sleep can promote more effective school and work performance and improve quality of life and personal interactions. It can lift our mood, boost our concentration, reduce daytime sleepiness and fatigue, and even help improve medical conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, headache, and other muscle aches and heart rhythm problems. Why let these conditions drag you down, it’s time to take control of your sleep.