What Do Sleep Studies Look For?

Many patients are curious about sleep studies: what are they and what do they look for? This article will describe sleep studies and their purpose.

Sleep studies involve spending the night in a sleep laboratory. A number of sensors are put on your body: electrodes on your head to look at your brain waves, sensors over your nose and mouth to record airflow, a microphone on your neck to record snoring, stretchy straps on your chest and belly to look at respiratory effort, heart rate monitor (EKG), oxygen monitor on your finger, muscle tone monitors, eye movement monitors, and a camera in the corner just in case you decide to sleep walk.

Sleep studies primarily focus on your breathing and limb movements a night. The sensors are very sensitive and can determine if you are having any kind of airflow limitation or snoring. We can also see if your legs are excessively kicking and whether you have any sleep walking.

At our sleep center in Portland Oregon, patients are instructed to arrive at 8:00 pm. They are then "hooked-up" between 8 to 11:00 pm. Next the patient tries to fall asleep. Occasionally, a mild sleeping pill is helpful. At our Portland sleep center, we have flat screen televisions, sound soothers, and herbal teas to help patients feel more comfortable as they are attempting to fall asleep.

Once asleep, sleep studies look for a few primary sleep disorders: sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, parasomnias (sleep walking or REM behavior disorder). We may also detect seizures although given the limited number of brain electrodes, sleep studies are usually not the best test to look for seizures.

The next morning the patient is free to leave while the sleep studies are being interpreted. At most sleep centers, it takes a week or longer to get your sleep study results. At our Portland sleep center, the doctor meets with every patient the morning after the sleep study to give preliminary results.

Sleep studies can definitely be a time consuming procedure, but the results are worth the trouble. If you are found to have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, treating it could literally save your life.

Disclaimer: As with all the content on this site, this article is to be viewed as educational only. In no way should this be construed as medical advice. If you are concerned that you might have a sleep disorder, make an appointment with a sleep physician for proper advice.