You arrive at the sleep center in the evening for polysomnography and stay overnight. You may bring items you use for your bedtime routine, and you can sleep in your own nightclothes.
The room where polysomnography is done is similar to a hotel room, and it's dark and quiet during the test. You don't share the room with anyone else. The room has its own bathroom.
The room has a video camera, so the polysomnography technologists monitoring you can see what's happening in the room when the lights are out. It also has an audio system, so they can talk to you and hear you from their monitoring area outside the room.
After you get ready for bed, one of the technologists places sensors on your scalp, temples, chest and legs using a mild adhesive, such as glue or tape. The sensors are connected by wires to a computer, but the wires are long enough to let you move normally in bed. A small clip also is placed on your finger or ear to monitor the level of oxygen in your blood.
While you sleep, a technologist monitors your:
- Brain waves
- Eye movements
- Heart rate
- Breathing pattern
- Blood oxygen level
- Body position
- Limb movement
- Snoring and other noise you may make as you sleep
All of these measurements are recorded on a continuous graph.
Polysomnography technologists monitor you throughout the night. If you need assistance, you can talk to them through the monitoring equipment. They can come into the room to detach the wires if you need to get up during the night.
During the study, the technologist may have you try a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine for sleep apnea. This is a device that consists of a tight-sealing nosepiece through which a gentle stream of air is delivered to enhance your breathing.
You will have the opportunity to try on a PAP device before the sleep study begins so that you are not surprised by it if tried later in the night. If necessary, oxygen also may be used during the study to bolster your breathing.
Although you probably won't fall asleep as easily or sleep as well at the sleep center as you do at home, this usually doesn't affect the test results. A full night's sleep isn't required to obtain accurate polysomnography results.
In the morning, the sensors are removed, and you may leave the sleep center. You're given an appointment for a follow-up visit with the doctor who recommended the test. You can return to your usual activities after polysomnography.
Dec. 04, 2014
- Sleep studies. American Thoracic Society. http://patients.thoracic.org/?p=251. Accessed Oct. 6, 2014.
- Millman RP, et al. Polysomnography in obstructive sleep apnea in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 6, 2014.
- Overnight sleep study. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://yoursleep.aasmnet.org/Topic.aspx?id=12. Accessed Oct. 6, 2014.
- What are sleep studies? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/slpst/. Accessed Oct. 6, 2014.
- Brain basics: Understanding sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm. Accessed Oct. 6, 2014.
- Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 8, 2014.