What Is a Sleep Study?

Do you often have problems sleeping? Do you feel tired most days of the week? Talk with your healthcare provider or a sleep specialist. He or she may suggest that you have a sleep study. It can help diagnose a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy. During the study, a special machine is used to monitor your sleep.

Who needs a sleep study?

If you have sleep problems that last longer than a few weeks, you may need a sleep study. It's important to get tested for sleep disorders. Untreated sleep disorders raise your risk for heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Talk with your healthcare provider. Be prepared to answer questions about your health history. Try to keep a daily sleep diary for a week or 2. Write down the time you go to bed, the time you wake up, and anything that seems to affect your sleep. Then your healthcare provider can refer you to a sleep specialist and recommend a sleep study.

Monitoring your sleep

Technician preparing man for sleep study.

Your sleep can be monitored at a sleep clinic or at your home. In either case, your healthcare provider will discuss the results with you at a future visit:

  • At a sleep clinic. Most sleep studies are done at a sleep clinic or a sleep lab. In most cases, you will need to stay overnight. You will sleep in a private room, much like a hotel or hospital room. A family member or a friend can come along. But he or she can’t stay overnight. Most people don’t have trouble sleeping during the study. In the morning you can go home. Sometimes you may be asked to stay at the lab the next day for a daytime nap study.

  • At home. At times, a sleep study can be done at home. A home sleep study provides most of the same information as a study done at a clinic. A special computer is loaned to you by a sleep clinic or a medical supplier. You will be given instructions on how to use it. Or someone may come to your home to help. Before bedtime, the computer is turned on to monitor your sleep all night. In the morning, you return the computer.

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