Polysomnography: A Guide To Sleep Study Tests

By Delialah Falcon. May 7th 2016

Individuals who suffer from interrupted sleep, inability to fall asleep or other sleep disorders may benefit from polysomnography. After your doctor rules out the presence of any underlying medical conditions that may be affecting your sleep patterns, a polysomnography can help with further diagnosis.

What Is Polysomnography?

Polysomnography, also known as a sleep study, is used to diagnose a variety of sleep disorders that can interfere with normal sleep patterns. The study is conducted in private, sleep disorder centers or in sleep disorder units that are located inside large hospitals and medical centers. Individuals undergoing polysomnography will spend the night in the sleep center where their sleep patterns will be closely monitored by trained sleep disorder technicians.

What Conditions Can Polysomnography Diagnose?

There are many sleep disorders that can be diagnosed with the use of polysomnography. The most commonly diagnosed sleep disorders include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Breathing disorders that occur when sleeping
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Narcolepsy
  • Sleep walking
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Sleep behavior disorders
  • Bruxism

Are Sleep Studies Safe?

Polysomnography is a non-invasive test that is considered safe for everyone. There are no known side effects associated with this sleep study other than minor skin irritation where monitoring nodes were placed on the skin.

Who Should Undergo Polysomnography?

Individuals who experience sleep disturbances on a regular basis for a period of one month or more should consider undergoing polysomnography only after attempting to eliminate other possible causes. Some potential causes of sleep disturbance include:

  • Caffeine
  • Poor diet
  • Alcohol
  • Stress
  • Allergies
  • Illness

Sleep disorders can be a common side effect of many medical conditions, some of which may be serious. Before scheduling a sleep study evaluation, it is important that you undergo a complete physical to rule out other possible causes of your sleep disturbances. Once your doctor has ruled out an underlying condition, you can safely make an appointment for polysomnography.

What To Expect During A Polysomnography

You will be asked to arrive at the sleep center during the evening. Once you arrive at the center, you will be led to a room that will resemble a small hotel room. The room will be kept dimly lit and free from distractions. There will be video cameras and audio recorders in place in order for technicians to observe you while you are sleeping.

After you complete your bedtime routine, the sleep technician will equip you with several devices that will be used to help monitor you while you are sleeping. Sensors will be placed on your scalp, temples, chest and legs. They will be adhered to the body with a mild adhesive. The sensors will have wires that are connected to digital computers. You will have a small oxygen sensor clipped to either your ear or your finger in order to monitor your oxygen levels while you sleep.

The polysomnography technicians will be in a separate room where they will be closely observing you while you sleep. The sensors on your body will record measurements of physiological processes that occur in your body while you sleep. This will help the technician monitor such processes as:

  • Brain waves
  • Eye movements
  • Pattern of breathing
  • Level of oxygen in the blood
  • Uncontrolled movement of limbs
  • Snoring
  • Heart rate
  • Restless sleep

Many individuals find it difficult to fall asleep. This will not affect the test results in any way, as a full night’s sleep is not required for a proper diagnosis. When you wake up in the morning, the technicians will remove all of the sensors for you. You will be given instructions on scheduling a follow-up visit with the prescribing physician who will go over the results of the test at the next visit. You will be able to return to your normal activities immediately.

Insurance Coverage And Cost

The average polysomnography costs between $1,200 and $6,000, with the average price being around $2,200. Your out of pocket expense and total cost of the exam depends largely on the state in which you live and the amount of coverage provided by your health insurance plan. Many health insurance providers will cover a portion of the test and some may cover the test completely, depending on the amount of your deductible. It is a good idea to speak with your insurance company directly and inquire about the percentage of coverage you will receive prior to scheduling your appointment.

How To Prepare For Your Visit

Before your polysomnography, your doctor may tell you to avoid eating or drinking anything that contains caffeine on the day of the study. He may also ask that you avoid consuming any alcoholic beverages. Both caffeine and alcohol may interfere with your normal sleep patterns, making it impossible for technicians to make an accurate diagnosis.

You can bring personal items from home that may help you feel more comfortable in the sleep center. You will not have to wear a hospital gown and you will be permitted to sleep in whatever nighttime clothing you normally wear when going to bed. Many individuals choose to bring their own pillows and blanket, as well as any other items that will make it easier to settle in and fall asleep. It is best to arrive at the center a few minutes before your scheduled appointment to fill out any necessary paperwork. Refrain from arriving too early, as waiting for a long time can lead to anxiousness.


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