What Happens at a Sleep Lab

If your doctor or sleep physician thinks it will benefit you, and give a clearer understanding of your sleep disorder, they will likely refer you to a sleep laboratory so that a sleep technician can study you while you sleep. The sleep lab you go to will depend on the type of insurance that you have. Ask your sleep specialist and the staff at the sleep lab for help in verifying your insurance coverage for sleep disorder and sleep disorder related testing and treatments.

Here you will find some general advice and guidelines, but always be sure to follow the exact recommendations of your doctor, sleep physicians, and sleep laboratory staff, as they are aware of your specific sleep disorder symptoms as well as the protocols of your sleep laboratory. When you make your appointment at the sleep lab they will give you a lot of information; write things down and be sure to ask questions if you are unsure. The more you understand the instructions given, the better your experience and the more accurate the results of your sleep study will be.

This is a list of general guidelines for the day of your sleep study:

  1. Don’t consume caffeine or alcohol.
  2. Don’t take a nap during the day.
  3. Eat a normal dinner before the procedure.
  4. Shower and wash your hair thoroughly. After the shower be sure you do not use hair products and do not apply oils or lotions to your skin.
  5. Pack comfortable clothing/pajamas, a pillow if you desire, any medication you normally take before bedtime, and a snack if you wish.
  6. Most sleep centers do not provide food so you might want to bring a little something to eat in the morning when you wake up too.

When you arrive at the sleep lab you will go through a check-in process. The sleep technician will show you to your sleep room and you will probably have some down-time; you can relax, watch television or read a book or magazine.

When you have changed into your night clothes the sleep technician will apply some electrodes to your head. There will probably be other electrodes or small devices attached to chest, waist, and finger tip. None of the devices are painful and they should not interfere with sleeping. There will be wires coming from the electrodes, but the sleep technician should have a system in place to bundle the wires so that you can move about comfortably while you sleep, without disrupting your sleep test.

The sleep test is technically called a polysomnogram and it collects massive amounts of data (hence all the electrodes) about your brain waves, muscle movements, breathing, heart rate, and snoring. All of these things are measured throughout the time you spend sleeping. In the morning you will be sent home and the sleep technician will process the data gathered during the sleep analysis. Due to the incredible volume of data gathered by the polysomnogram during the sleep study, the results may take several days or more to tabulate. You will be instructed by the sleep lab, sleep technician, or sleep specialist as to the follow-up procedure and how to go about obtaining your sleep study results.