The Sleep Study

We spend about 1/3 of our life in sleep. Most people, including those who work in the medical field, either forget this fact or don’t really think about it. The sleep study is one of the few diagnostic tests in the medical field that looks at and compares several different parameters at one time: airflow, respiratory effort, oxygen level, heart activity, muscle activity, and snoring. This is also one of the few tests that lasts 6 - 8 hours where you are being monitored by a trained technician. In our case, the technician is at least credentialed as a Respiratory Therapist who has been trained to perform sleep studies.

The sleep study consists of evaluating the parameters above, finding out where the problem(s) lie, and treating these problems. There is a good possibility that you won’t feel you slept well the night of your sleep study, due to all the electrodes, wires, strange surroundings, and so on. However, there is usually more than enough sleep to determine your problem, but on occasion a second sleep study may be necessary.

What do we look for? Very simply put, we look to see how well you are sleeping. There are reported to be over 100 different classifications of sleep disorders to date, and a person with a sleep disorder generally has difficulty sleeping. Your sleep data from the sleep study is compared to data from normal individuals of your age who were found to not have any sleep problem. Keep in mind that these people were tested with the same electrodes and wires on as what you had during the night of your sleep study.

When you lay down to sleep, you should fall asleep within a certain amount of time and then enter REM sleep at some point thereafter. Some awakenings and arousals are normal during the evening: Awakenings are when you wake up and either get up to go to the bathroom or roll over and return to sleep. Arousals are short awakenings often lasting around a second. One or two arousals are not usually a problem, but a couple of hundred of them is usually the main reason you can spend 8-10 hours in bed and not feel rested the next day, even though you felt like you slept the entire night.

While other problems are present when a person has a sleep disorder, the major complaint is excessive daytime sleepiness. This, along with other issues, usually onset gradually and family and friends may notice the problem before the patient.

Sleep can be fragmented for several reasons, such as sleep apnea, sleep hypopnea, leg jerks, low oxygen and snoring. The trick here is to figure out the cause, take care of the underlying problem, and restore restful sleep. It should also be noted that the severity of the underlying problem will usually determine the treatmen