I previously wrote an article explaining a typical sleep study. In that
account, I basically described the sleep study itself. However, you can’t really know about something unless you’ve experienced it. That’s why I’d like to attempt to define what you can expect from a typical sleep study. So, if you’ve never had one, and wonder what a typical sleep study is like, this will help you understand it a little better.
Welcome to my world
When I share experiences as a sleep tech. I don’t like to gloss over anything. I prefer to be open and share the good the bad and the ugly. In doing so, I hope to give you a better understanding of the world I live in. So that if you ever need a sleep study, you’ll have some fairly realistic expectations.
Personally, I really enjoy my life as a sleep Technologist. And I’ve talked with many other Technologists who enjoy what they do as well. Being a sleep Technologist definitely has its rewards, as well as its challenges. It’s nice to know that I’m helping people, but it’s even more awesome to actually hear people tell me how much better they feel.
Although I usually don’t get to hear from a patient unless their spouse or someone they know comes in for a sleep study. But when they tell me about that friend or relative of theirs, it makes my day.
With that in mind, let’s look at what can you expect during a typical sleep study.
First Night Syndrome
It’s quite natural to be a bit nervous when you come in for a typical sleep study. even if you’ve talked with others who have had one, or you researched it online. This is now you about to experience this. And the reasons you’re here can bring questions and concerns to mind.
You might be concerned about the effects of sleep apnea on your health. Then there’s the concern about using CPAP. Are you claustrophobic? What if you can’t stand wearing the mask? And will you be able to sleep with all those wires attached to you? Let alone some strange person watching you sleep. And even though we don’t ‘watch you sleep’ it can feel that way. Or maybe you think that the study is just a waste of your time and money.
However, once you’ve decided to come, don’t worry about bringing some personal item in with you. For instance, several years ago, an older gentleman brought a teddy bear with him. He said his granddaughter gave it to him ‘so you won’t have to sleep alone’. More recently I had a big tough looking dude bring his blanket in with him, ‘because it smells like my dog’.
So don’t feel weird or embarrassed about bringing something with you that has meaning to you.
There’s also what we call ‘first-night syndrome’. This happens when a person who usually has no problem falling asleep, now just can’t get to sleep no matter what. It’s called first-night syndrome because this can occur the first night in a sleep lab.
But there are also problems we can face with the equipment.
Houston, we Have a Problem
Unfortunately, the equipment doesn’t always work flawlessly. However, those of us techs who’ve been working long enough can pretty much take care of many technical difficulties ‘on the fly’. Rarely do we have to cancel a study because of some issue we can’t resolve.
And usually, if there’s a problem, you, the patient, probably won’t even know about it. We’ll do our troubleshooting without letting you know there’s problem. That’s usually because we’re pretty confident we can fix whatever the issue is. And if we can’t fix it, then we’ll let you in on it. But only after we’ve come to the place of needing to cancel your study. Although this rarely happens.
For example, I had this wonderful experience years ago:
I got my patient hooked up without incident. However, when I fired up the study, BAM! Something wasn’t right. The signals were totally unreadable. I went in and re-prepped some of the leads I thought might be suspect. And actually made several trips into the patient’s room, checking different things; eventually making all kinds of adjustments. At first, I really had no idea what in the world could be wrong.
But all I told the patient was that the signals weren’t perfect, and I was just making some adjustments to ensure a good quality study. I can’t remember what all as wrong, and actually, I thought I might need to cancel this study. That’s how bad it really was
Ultimately, however, I miraculously got the study up and running nicely (as I wiped the sweat from my brow). Oh, and that’s another thing, we’ll never let you see us sweat. Anyway, through all this, the patient had no idea how bad things really were. But in the end, the study turned out really well.
And the next morning the patient told me how impressed they were that I made extra sure the study was good!! If they only knew!!
But there are times when we do need to cancel a sleep study.
This is not a Typical Sleep Study!
Yes, there are times when a study needs to be canceled,. And again, it’s rare. But sometimes a problem just can’t be resolved. Like the time I wasn’t feeling 100%. And by the time I got to the lab, I had developed a fever, complete with aches and chills. I obviously couldn’t be around patients that way. And all I wanted to do was lay down and go to sleep.
Also, there are times when our equipment just won’t co-operate. I, as well as other Technologists, have had computers die on us at the last minute. That’s not fun. That and other technical difficulties beyond our control have caused more than one cancellation.
And again, while it’s rare to have to cancel a sleep study, things happen; or don’t happen, as the case may be. Although we do our best to make sure your study will be done when scheduled. And we do have other Technologists who might be available to come in at the last minute. But we’re all generally pretty busy, so that can be a bit of a juggling act.
So you’ve seen what a typical sleep study might actually feel like to you. As well as addressed some of the technical difficulties that can occur. I’ve also shared openly and honestly some things that can occur during a not-so-typical sleep study. But if you still have any questions or concerns, please feel contact me.
Till next time…Blessings.