What Is a Sleep Study?
A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is an overnight recording of sleep patterns and behaviors associated with sleep. It is necessary to determine what stages of sleep an individual achieves and whether any sleep-related abnormalities are present. A variety of sensors are applied with paste or tape to the body's surface to record brain waves, eye movements, muscle tone, body movements, heart rate, and breathing. Audiovisual recordings are made also. None of the sensors used are painful or invasive - even the oxygen content of the blood is measured non-invasively with a simple clip on the index finger. There are connecting wires to the sensors, but you are free to get up and walk about as needed.
During the study, every attempt is made to allow for a normal night's sleep. Some people typically sleep better or worse when away from home, but in either case this does not usually affect the value of the sleep study. The sleep laboratory has a homey, bedroom-like atmosphere with a TV/VCR. You wear your own bedclothes, and you can bring your favorite pillow and shower in the morning. A trained sleep technician explains all of the recording sensors during application. He or she is stationed outside the bedroom all night to both monitor the sleep recording and make sure you are comfortable.
Following the sleep study, a board-certified sleep specialist interprets the recording. The findings are integrated with your sleep history to determine a diagnosis and to make treatment recommendations. A sleep study report is sent to your physician who reviews the results with you at your follow-up office visits.