What can you Expect From a Typical Sleep Study?

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
Typical Sleep Study
Me in my office

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.

Conclusion

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.

Do you Have What it Takes to be a Sleep Technologist?

The life of a sleep technologist is far from boring. Are you one of the many that think we just sit there all night watching you sleep? Think againIn this article, I define what a Sleep Technologist is and does.

What is a Sleep Technologist?Sleep Technologist

I can’t speak for all Sleep Technologists, but when I first heard of this field of study, I was immediately interested. What’s so fascinating about staying up all night watching people sleep, you ask? I have no idea, I don’t do that. Although, it’s amazing how many people think I do.

Let’s clear this misconception up a bit shall we? But before I go into what a Sleep Technologist does, let’s define what one is.

First of all, not just anyone can be a Sleep Technologist. And I don’t think everyone would want to be one! For one thing, we’re up at night and sleep during the day. Also, many of us work alone and spend hours at a computer. Actually, we’re usually working 2 computers at the same time because we routinely test 2 patients each night.

But really, I enjoy working by myself; especially at night when it’s nice and quiet. And by quiet I don’t mean sitting there twiddling my thumbs…that would drive me crazy!

No, a quiet night just means a nice pace where I’m able to keep up with everything. And because not everyone’s the same, what works for one person might not work for someone else. So it’s good to keep ahead of things in case something unexpected happens. Thus, good time management, with an eye for detail, is a must.

And while you’d think it would get boring doing the same thing every night, it’s not at all. That’s because, even though I have the same routine every night, I deal with different people. And it’s the people that make my career most interesting.

Not that everything else isn’t interesting. As one of my patients put it “You have a really cool job!” And while that may be true, they were wrong about one thing. It’s not just a job. I’m helping people live a longer, more enriching life. It’s what I’ve become.

But just what does a Sleep Technologist do?

What Does a Sleep Technologist do?

One of the more frequent comments I get is ‘It must be boring watching people sleep.’ Another question people ask is ‘Did you have to go to school for this?’ It’s tempting to answer that question with, ‘No, I’m smart enough to have figured this out all by myself’. But I don’t. ’cause I’m not.

Of course, people who say such things just don’t understand the complexities of this position. And for the record, we don’t watch you sleep. That would be a silly, boring and quite useless job, no?  However, after I explain what I do, the question usually becomes “How much schooling did it take you to learn all this?”

With that, let’s take a look at some of the things that take place during your sleep study.

Let’s begin with the hookup. There’re a lot of wires attached to you. These sensors measure leg movement, breathing, oxygen levels, heart rate, and brainwaves; as well as muscle tension, eye movement, and snoring. And while I’m hooking you up to all these sensors, I like to explain what I’m doing as I go. I also explain what Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, is. And this naturally leads to a brief discussion of CPAP.

After you’re hooked up, I have you try on different CPAP masks, just in case I decide to start you on treatment. This not only gets you accustomed to the mask but also helps you relax, as you now know what to expect. Then, during your sleep study, I need to determine if you need CPAP or not. And if I start you on treatment, when to adjust pressure to get you breathing well.

Once I have your study up and running, you’re reduced to a bunch of crisp clear squiggly lines on my computer monitor. All these lines show me what your version of sleep looks like. At that point, I settle into my chair and began the process of helping you live a longer more enriching life…Literally.

But in order to do this, I need to be knowledgeable about a few things.

A Sleep Technologist Does Know Some Stuff

A Sleep Technologist wears many hats. And once we pass a board exam, our ‘official’ title is Registered Polysomnographic Technologist or RPSGT.

Among the many skills we possess are:

♦ Basic EKG interpretation One of the things I record is your heart rate and rhythm. It’s not a full EKG but still gives me a heads up if something isn’t right, that is as long as I know what I’m looking at. Additionally, when I’m at a lab in a hospital, I can always call the charge nurse and get a second opinion on anything questionable.

♦Charting. Accurate assessment of your condition. Knowing what’s significant and what’s not. And with proper spelling and medical terminology (so I don’t look dumb to the Doctor)

♦ Computer skills.

♦ Medical knowledge. Diseases, medicines, medical terminology. I need to know how different diseases affect sleep. Also, medications that are prescribed for these diseases have their own effects on the sleep-wake cycle. All these variables not only affect your sleep but also influence how you respond to CPAP.

♦ Pattern Recognition-When I look at the computer monitor, all I see are a bunch of squiggly lines. But each squiggle means something. And I need to be able to determine whether a squiggle is significant or not. By morning, I’ll have around 900 pages of data recorded on you, so I really need to know what I’m looking at. Therefore, I’m the eyes and ears of the Doctor.

♦ People skills-The hook up process is 1 on 1 time. Not only is that the time to gather information on your medical history. It’s also the time to help you relax and prepare for the night. Interpersonal skills are very important. Especially at this time.

♦ Troubleshooting both equipment and computer. Although I do have access to an on-call person, I need to be able to handle problems as best I can. Of course, experience alone helps there.

We also attend monthly classes that keep us up to speed on the ever-evolving fields of sleep.

Conclusion

I hope this rather brief description of what a Sleep Technologist is and does helps you better understand this complex and highly technical field.

I’m a Sleep Technologist and I love what I do. Helping people live a longer more enriching life is awesome!!

Till next time…Blessings.

There are different ways to qualify for a Sleep Technologist. Our exact titles are Registered Polysomnographic Technologist or RPSGT. And depending on your medical background, there are the various ways you can become one of us.

The Patients I see at the Sleep lab are Awesome!!

I really enjoy working with the patients I see at my sleep lab and often think about all the people I’ve helped. So with that in mind, please join me as I, once again, reminisce on my years as a Sleep Tech.

My Sleep Study Patients Aren’t Stupid

So many of the patients that I see in the sleep lab are quite consciousness challenged, but it’s not funny. These people come in fighting the very sleep that they never really fully attain. It must be very frustrating, to say the least.

I really feel for these people who have struggled, day after semi-conscious sleepless day. Dragging themselves around. Maybe even being ridiculed for being ‘lazy’. Or misdiagnosed with depression; although a lack of good quality sleep can also lead to this. See http://sleepguyblog.com/damaging-effects-sleep-deprivation1/

I mean, here are people who go through life in a fog, with never enough energy to do things. And yet, life is calling out from all directions, screaming for attention. Reality doesn’t care that you’re too tired to do anything at the time. It demands your attention, even if you have none to give.

No, these people aren’t lazy. And they’re not stupid either. It’s just that long-term sleep deprivation has taken its toll…not only on their minds but their bodies as well.

A little empathy goes a long ways.

Therefore, once my patients are all tucked in, and the studies are up and running, I can settle into the mostly quiet solitude and begin the work of saving lives. I say ‘mostly’ because some nights can be quite hectic!

Yet even this generally slower pace has never been boring. There’s usually something going on; like the time one of my patients vanished right before my very eyes!!

With that, I now present to you…

The Case of the Disappearing Patient

But first, a little background.

I travel to several different hospitals, so I get to do sleep studies in various facilities. Also, each hospital has the sleep lab set up differently. This particular night, I was at a hospital where the sleep rooms are down the hall from the control room.

Anyway, when a patient is ‘hooked up’ there are a ton of wires all over the place. These wires are plugged into what’s called a ‘Head Box’. This Head Box is attached by a cable to an amplifier in the patient’s room.

The amplifier then transfers the data from the patient to the control room where I sit. There’s also an infrared camera with a two-way speaker in the patients room so we can talk back and forth.

patients

(By the way, that’s me, cleverly disguised as a sleep study patient. Hey, check out those crazy wires! (It was one of my students first attempt at a hookup. Not bad, huh?)).

Anyway, one of the instructions I give my patients is the need to let me know if they need to get up; say to use the bathroom, or something. This is because I have to go into their room and disconnect the Head Box.

Now you see him, now you Don’t

So here I am, sitting at the computers, doing some paperwork. The studies have been running for a few hours by now. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, a red square appears on one of the monitors. I look up to see the red ‘Loss of Signal’ icon. My lightning fast brain also notices that the patient’s signals have flat lined!! :-0 !!

I take a quick look at the t.v monitor, but the bed is empty!!  Double  :-0 !!! ! So I go tearing down the hall wondering just what I’ll find, as this guy said nothing about sleep walking. Arriving at his room, I carefully open the door not knowing what to expect. I mean, I hope he’s still in there!!

It’s dark, except for some light coming through a partially open bathroom door. And there, Head Box in one hand, and opening the bathroom door with the other, stands my patient. Stopping dead in his tracks, he looks at me in surprise and says:

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you!”

Knowledge is Power

Allow me a moment of seriousness.

As a sleep technologist, I wear many hats. One of which is that of a teacher. I talk with my patients about the dangers of untreated sleep apnea as much as they’ll listen. Some listen in silence. Others ask a ton of questions. And then there are those who don’t really seem like they want to know anything, or maybe they’re just too tired to care at the moment.

However, many people just don’t realize that having a sleep study can lead to a huge improvement in their quality of life. Therefore, whether they’re too stubborn, or just in denial, education plays a key role in their treatment. That’s because a knowledgeable patient is a receptive patient.

Consequently, I’ll I talk to them and share as much as they really want to know; even though I don’t know everything myself. On the other hand, I do know enough to do what I do, and I do it quite well.

Closing Thoughts

So how’re you feeling right now? I mean, you’ve read this far (unless you skipped down to this part), therefore you must have some type of interest in sleep problems.

If that’s the case, I’d really like to hear from you, as there are so many people out there struggling, and looking for answers. What you share might be just what they need to hear.

Hey, saving lives is fun, please join me in this quest if you will, and share what you know, and/or have experienced. Your comment could actually lead to changing someone’s life for the better.

Thanks for letting me have some of your time. Till next week…

Blessings