What happens when I arrive at the sleep lab?
After you are admitted, you’ll:
- Meet the sleep technician, who will explain the study to you and give you the opportunity to ask questions.
- You’ll then change into your sleepwear and get ready for bed following your usual routine.
- Next, the sleep technician will hook up various sensors, including the following:
- Sticky patches (sensors) on your face, scalp, chest, and legs will record your brain activity, heart activity, and movements. (Some patients think these sensors smell bad.)
- Sensors by your nose will measure your breathing.
- Straps around your chest and abdomen will measure the effort it takes to breathe.
- A finger clip will record your blood oxygen.
The sensors will be securely attached and the wires will be bundled so you can sleep in any position and turn over as you sleep. If you might need to test CPAP therapy during the night, the technician will help you try on a CPAP mask. This way, if you put it on later you’ll have a good fit.
What happens during the sleep study?
- The technician will take initial readings from the sensors while you are awake.
- You will try to fall asleep. If you usually read or watch TV to help you fall asleep, that’s fine. But at some point the room will be darkened so you can sleep through the night. (You should get at least 6 hours of sleep for a good test.)
- The sensors attached to your body send signals to equipment in another room. A technician monitors the signals in the other room. If the sensors show that you repeatedly stop breathing, this indicates you have sleep apnea.
- If sleep apnea is confirmed early enough during the test, you may be given a trial of positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy. In this case, here’s what will happen:
- Starting PAP. The technician will enter your room to put a PAP mask over your nose or your nose and mouth and start PAP therapy. You will need to try to fall back asleep.
- Monitoring your response and adjusting the airflow. Your response to PAP therapy will be monitored from another room. The technician will adjust the airflow coming from the mask, so it is just enough to keep your airway open without being too strong. This helps determine the best way to start treatment.
Commonly Asked Questions
- Will it be hard to fall asleep? For some people it may take a bit longer, but don’t worry — just let nature take its course. People usually fall asleep pretty quickly.
- What if I need to use the bathroom during the night? Just let the technician know you need to get out of bed for any reason. Unplugging and reconnecting the sensors is fairly quick and easy.
- What if I change positions a lot when I sleep? You will be able to roll over and move around in bed during the study. In most cases, it does not disrupt the sensors.
- Can family members stay overnight? Usually not, unless there is a medical reason and arrangements have been made ahead of time with the sleep lab. The exception is for patients under 18, in which case a parent or guardian must stay with their child overnight.