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What is a Sleep Study & What Does it Measure? | How is A Sleep Study Performed?

Are you having difficulty staying asleep? Have you been advised of a sleep study for a sleep disorder? You must be wondering what a sleep study is. Well, a sleep study is an investigation often advised by doctors to find out your sleep problems.

What is a Sleep Study?

Sleep, essential to your natural healing, becomes necessary for your well-being. Sleep disorders are those conditions that disturb your normal sleep patterns.1 Lack of sleep can interfere with your physical, mental, emotional, and social functioning. Inadequate sleep can also increase the risk of several health problems like obesity, diabetes, depression, and heart disorders. It can also raise the risk of accidents due to poor judgment.2

Early diagnosis and timely treatment of sleep disorders can help you in every way. A sleep study is one of the tests done for the diagnosis of sleep disorders. Let us know what a sleep study is all about.

Sleep Study – Why Is It Done?

A sleep study is a test done to determine how well you sleep and your sleep-related issues. It helps to diagnose sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, sleepwalking, restless legs syndrome, or other sleep behaviors.3

It may also be done to check the progress of your ongoing treatment for a sleep condition and to adjust treatment doses, if necessary. A sleep study may also be done to determine the performance of positive airway pressure therapy given to patients with respiratory issues during sleep.

Knowing the symptoms of sleep disorders can help in understanding the need for a sleep study. Some of the common symptoms that you may experience if you have sleep disorders include4

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night or staying asleep for the entire night
  • Disturbed sleep with frequent waking up, feeling restless or tossing and turning in the bed at night
  • Snoring loudly during sleep
  • Waking up in the middle of your sleep, gasping for breath
  • Feeling unrefreshed on waking up in the morning
  • Feeling fatigued and sleepy during the day

What Does A Sleep Study Measure?

A sleep study is also called polysomnography. This test records the activity of your brain and relevant information from your body, while you are asleep. The data collected reveals information about your unique sleep patterns, the time you spend in light and deep stages, the amount of oxygen received, the number of times you wake up from your sleep, and the disruption of your sleep by any stimuli or movement of your arms and legs.5

How Is A Sleep Study Performed?

The sleep study test can be done at a hospital, sleep center, or at your home with a portable device and an expert. This test is done when you are sleeping and it records your brainwaves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing during your sleep.6

It is necessary to speak to your doctor to know the preparations before the test. You may be advised to avoid alcohol or caffeine-containing foods on the day of a sleep study. As these foods and drinks can interfere with your sleep, change sleep patterns, and can make your symptoms of sleep disorders worse, they are best avoided. Similarly, napping during the daytime is not advised as it can affect your sleep at night, during the test.

You will have to stay overnight if your sleep study is done at the sleep center or hospital. The room is dark and you have to sleep as usual. For the sleep study, you will have to follow the instructions given by the technologist and they will place the sensors on your body. These sensors are connected by wires to a computer, which is long enough to allow you to move in bed. The sensors record the brain activity and other information, while a clip is also placed on the finger to monitor the oxygen levels in your blood while you are asleep.6

The technologist is in the next room, where they can view and monitor your activity. If you need any assistance, you can talk to them through the equipment that helps monitor, so that they can help you.

Once the test begins, various parameters to be determined are recorded. These include brain waves, eye movements, breathing patterns, snoring noises, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, body position, and chest, abdominal, and limb movement.

Once the test is done, the sensors and wires are removed and you are allowed to leave. You will be given the next appointment to see the doctor to discuss the test results.
If you do a sleep study at home, the doctor will give you portable test equipment and explain the process or a technologist may assist you to perform the test. Home sleep study kits may vary in nature; hence it is necessary to follow your doctor’s instructions.

After the test results are ready your doctor will discuss the report with you. The graphs and sleep cycles recorded during the sleep study any abnormal brain waves and muscle movements help them diagnose your sleep disorder. Depending on the diagnosis and its severity, your doctor will decide on a treatment plan.

Thus a sleep study helps your doctor understand the cause of your sleep problems and helps decide on the best treatment to treat them and improve your sleep.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 7, 2023

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