If you think you may have a sleep disorder, your primary doctor or a doctor that specializes in sleep disorders may send you to a sleep center for diagnosis. There are a large number of sleep centers located across the United States and their numbers are increasing. Sleep centers in the United States must be accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
When a person goes to a sleep center, it is usually for an overnight stay. Costs involved for most sleep study tests range from one to three thousand dollars and many need to be repeated twice. The first visit to diagnose the sleep disorder and the second to get accurate settings for any PAP machines that may be needed. Health insurance generally pays all or most of the cost of the tests needed to diagnose a sleep disorder.
Once an appointment has been made, many sleep centers send a sleep diary to the patient. The information from the sleep diary is used by the doctors to understand general sleeping patterns.
It is also recommended that no caffeine or alcohol be consumed after 12:00 p.m. on the day of the scheduled test.
Generally the patient packs an overnight bag just as if they were going to stay at a hotel overnight. During the sleep study you wear your own nightclothes and you can use a favorite pillow from home. You can bring a book or magazine if you like to read before falling to sleep. Most sleep centers resemble a hotel room and have a television to watch if that is what the patient usually does before going to sleep at home. Once you are relaxed the sleep center technician starts preparation for the equipment needed to record your patterns of sleep.
Diagnosis from a sleep center study is made using polysomnography which records a continual record of your sleep. In order to take a specific reading slightly more than two dozen small thin electrodes are pasted to specific parts of your body. They are placed under your chin, on your scalp, near your eyes and nose, on your finger, chest and legs, and also over the rib muscles and on the abdomen. These electrodes then record various types of readings during the night. Often an audio and video tape are also made to monitor sleep noises and movement.
Once all the equipment is in place the sleep technician leaves you alone to fall asleep. Even with all the equipment it is not uncomfortable. It is easy to move or turn onto your side. Each bedroom in a sleep center also has an automatic intercom so it is easy to call the technician if needed for such things as a bathroom break. When the sleep study is completed, the technician may wake you. Most studies that are used to diagnose a sleep disorder take seven to eight hours.
The reading are collected on a computer file called a polysonagram and are monitored and analyzed by the sleep technician during the night. The results are then sent for further readings to determine if there is a sleep disorder.
Although a sleep study may not sound comfortable, it is very important to determine and treat any sleep disorder.