A Typical Sleep Study


Sleep StudyA Sleep Study Could Save Your Life

If you’ve been following my blogs, you know that having a sleep study is more than about just getting a good nights sleep. Although waking up feeling like you actually slept, and going about your day with enough energy to actually do stuff, is nice; that’s merely a side effect of PAP treatment.

But even then, it can be quite easy to put off; and not knowing what to expect can make it all the easier to do so.

This article was written with that in mind. So if you’re thinking of having a sleep study, but you’re hesitating because you don’t know what to expect…Your wait is over.

I’ve been doing sleep studies for over 10 years now, and have known people who were very glad they had a sleep study. While I haven’t personally had an actual sleep study, I’ve been hooked up by one of our students, so I know what we put you guys through.

I’ll share my personal experience later in this article.


But first…

Preparing  For The Study

Patients are usually at least a little bit nervous when they come in for a sleep study; this is a normal response to the unknown.

Sometimes your friends aren’t the best resource, especially when.    They’re trying to be funny. For instance, I had a patient come in a few years ago who was told by a ‘friend that they would have to shave his head; this, of course, is not true.

However, it is necessary to be clean shaven as there are sensors placed on your chin and held in place with tape.

The exception to this is if you have a beard; the tech can apply sensors using the same technique they use to apply sensors to your head (if you have hair)


Just a few do’s and don’t’s the day of the study.

Do carry out your daily activities as usual.

Unless otherwise directed by your Dr., take any medicine according to your regular schedule.

Try not to take any naps’ Don’t drink any caffeinated beverages after 2 pm

Please don’t show up for your sleep study under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.

If you have a prescription for medical marijuana, you probably already know that it’s actually a good sleep aide; at last initially. But more research is needed on this…Any volunteers?

Some people say they are so used to consuming ‘a little’ alcohol at bedtime, that if they don’t drink, it interferes with their sleep. While a little alcohol at bedtime might help you fall asleep faster, more is not better. In fact, as alcohol breaks down in your system, it actually causes more arousals from sleep.

What can I bring?

Bring your own pillow (this is also the thing most people forget to take when they leave in the morning). Also, bring something comfortable to sleep in, besides your own skin, that is.

Even if your study is being done in a hospital, it’s a good idea to bring your own toiletries; although not all labs have showers available, so you’d want to check on that one.

If you are diabetic and use insulin, please bring that with, along with your glucometer.

Usually, it’s fine to bring a snack.

You can’t bring your pet or have your significant other spend the night; as we don’t want anything interfering with your sleep.

Also, bring any paperwork that was sent to you to fill out in advance. We have had patients who have called in asking if they needed to re-schedule their appointment because they didn’t have their paperwork filled out. That is not necessary, as the Technologist usually has extra forms you can fill out in the lab.

During The Study

If the lab is in a hospital, you’ll need to go to the ER to get registered. From there, the Technologist who will be doing your study will come out to walk you back to the sleep lab. If you need a wheelchair, one can be provided for you.

Some sleep studies are done apart from hospitals or are on hospital grounds but in a building separate from the hospital itself. In that case, you can normally just go right to the lab without having to go through the hospital.

Once In your room,  there will more than likely be some additional paperwork to fill out.  You can also change into whatever you will be sleeping in.


The hookup process

You’ll be wired pretty much head to toe, but don’t worry, all the wires are pretty small, and after a while,  you won’t even notice them that much

This is what you’ll have to put up with.


  • Patches are attached with wires to your legs which monitor leg movement.
  • Belts are placed around your belly and chest to measure breathing.
  • Patches on your upper chest monitor your heart.
  • Wires attached by your eyes and chin to measure eye movement and muscle tension.
  • Sensors also attached to your scalp to monitor brain waves.

A type of paste is used to apply sensors to your scalp and face, which easily breaks down in warm water; so a good shower in the morning should take care of it.

A type of paste is used to apply sensors to your scalp and face, which easily breaks down in warm water; so a good shower in the morning should take care of it.

The tech will also want you to sleep on your back as much as possible because most sleep disordered breathing is more pronounced on your back.  However, if you have any injury that makes that difficult, let them know about it; in that case, back sleep should not be required.

You will Initially be monitored for how you’re breathing while you sleep. If they determine that pap therapy would be a good choice, they’ll come in and start this treatment on you. The rest of the night will be spent on pap treatment while the technologist adjusts the pressure to get you breathing well.


They won’t have to come in and adjust your pressures, as this can be done from a control outside your room.

I Had This Happen To Me

While I’ve never had an actual sleep study, I did get to pretend I was a patient for a student not too long ago.  And even though I had nothing to worry about, I mean, I didn’t have any sleep or sleep-related problems, I was still a bit nervous!! Although this didn’t last long.

After changing into my sleep wear, I went into my bedroom. The Tech had everything set up and explained things to me as they got me all wired.

I have hairy legs, so became somewhat concerned about how the sensors and tape would stick. Typically, when I do the sleep study, I’ll shave spots on the patient’s legs where I place sensors; but now, even the thought of having some of the hair on my legs shaved gave me pause.

Turns out the tech didn’t shave my legs after all; but then there’s the old tape on hair deal going on. However, they solved this issue by using paper tape; which pulled off without any pain.

The rest of the hook up was fairly relaxing; and even though I’m quite used to being a part of the routine, others who have never had a sleep study before will occasionally comment on how relaxing the process is. So it’s not just me saying that.

In fact, I’ve even had patients fall asleep on me during this time. Now, of course, a lot of people who come in for a sleep study are pretty tired, to begin with, so I can’t take all the credit.

The tech used a gritty gel to prep the areas they were going to apply sensors to, and used Q-Tips to scrub with. They were careful not to scrub hard and cause any irritation. Although some vigorous scrubbing is necessary to get a clean signal.

After the hookup, my Technologist removed all the wires, and patches; and again, this was a painless procedure.

After The Study

At the end of the study, your technologist can’t give you any information, as the study has to be interpreted first. This is done by a Dr. who is board certified in sleep medicine.

Generally, a follow-up appointment is made and a Dr. will go over the results of the study with you.


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