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Sleep studies at sleep centers

Three steps to better sleep

What's a sleep study like?

KARE 11 Reporter Jeff Olsen visited an Allina Health sleep clinic to see what a sleep study is all about, and he talked to one person who is glad he had one done.

At Allina Health Sleep Centers, we follow a simple, three-step procedure to diagnose and treat your sleep problem.

1. Evaluation

You'll meet with a doctor who will evaluate your current physical health and talk with you about your trouble sleeping. This helps us get a better idea of what may be disturbing your sleep.

At this time, your doctor may recommend an overnight sleep study, or a polysomnography.

2. Overnight sleep study

If your doctor refers you to a sleep study, relax. We'll do everything we can to make you comfortable.

Allina Health Sleep Centers have private bedrooms that are similar to hotel rooms. Most sleep tests are done during the night.

A sleep specialist will place electrodes on your chin, scalp, and the outer edge of your eyelids, which must remain in place while you sleep. These electrodes will measure the time it takes you to fall asleep, as well as the time it takes you to enter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Heart rate and breathing monitors will be attached to your chest. A specially trained researcher will note any changes in your breathing or heart rate.

3. Diagnosis and treatment

After your doctor has had an opportunity to evaluate the results of your sleep study, we'll meet with you to discuss the results and treatment options.


Source: Allina Health Sleep Centers
Reviewed by: Kristy Rowe, manager, cardiopulmonary services, Buffalo Hospital
First Published: 10/27/2010
Last Reviewed: 10/27/2010

Sleep study overview

Polysomnography is a special study of your sleep. It records your brain activity, eye movements, breathing, heart rate, oxygen level, and chin and leg muscle movement patterns.

For the sleep study, you will spend the night at a sleep center. The study has little to no discomfort, and it will last for at least six hours.

Purpose of the sleep study

The sleep study will help your doctor tell if you have a sleep disorder. He or she will order this test to:

  • understand your sleep patterns to see if you have a sleeprelated breathing disorder such as sleep apnea (stopping breathing many times at night)
  • see if you have any sleep-related behaviors or movements such as abnormal arm or leg movements, sleepwalking or talking
  • go along with a multiple sleep latency test (known as an MSLT) to see if you have narcolepsy (extreme sleepiness during the day with possible loss of muscle tone).

Parts of the sleep study

When you arrive for your sleep study the technologist will apply adhesive patches and sensors to your skin. Each patch and sensor has a wire that connects to a recording device. The recorded information will be sent to a computer for review.

Information being collected includes the following.

  • Brain activity: Tiny electrodes will be attached with a special paste or adhesive to your scalp. The electrodes will record your brain waves during the different stages of sleep:
    • light sleep
    • deep sleep
    • rapid eye movement (known as REM sleep), during which you dream.
  • Eye movements: Electrodes will be placed near your eyes. The computer will record your eye movements during sleep.
  • Face and leg activity: Electrodes will be placed on your face and legs. The computer will record muscle tension, teeth grinding and leg movements.
  • Airflow: Small electrodes will be placed near your nose and mouth. The computer will record the flow of air from your nose and mouth.
  • Respiratory effort: Electrodes with a belt will be placed around your chest and abdomen. The belt wires will record your chest and abdominal movements when you breathe. The test is used with the airflow sensor to confirm sleep apnea.
  • Heart rate and rhythm: EKG (electrocardiogram) patches will be placed on your chest. The computer will record your heart rate and rhythm.
  • Oxygen levels: A pulse oximeter sensor will be placed on your finger. The sensor will record the amount of oxygen in your blood. If you have sleep apnea, this test will show if your oxygen level is affected when you stop breathing.
  • Snoring: A sensor will be placed on your face, your throat, or the lower part of your neck. The computer will record your snoring.

An audio/video camera on the wall will record the sounds in your room, your sleep positions during your sleep and the different movements you make.

A technologist will be in a control room with the monitors and computers that record your sleep. He or she will be available to help you at any time during the sleep study. There is an intercom/ microphone in the room to let you communicate with the technologist during the test.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Polysomnography (Sleep study), neuro-ahc-23688
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department
First Published: 04/01/2006
Last Reviewed: 04/11/2011

Sleep study packing list

What to bring to the sleep center

Bring the following with you:

comfortable two-piece pajamas or a T-shirt and gym shorts (You cannot sleep in the nude or in your underwear.)

socks or slippers if your feet get cold

clothes for the next day

toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush/comb, soap, shampoo, hair dryer and other personal items (You will be able to take a shower the morning after the sleep study.)

regular medicines you take: prescription and over-the-counter (Bring enough for overnight and the next day.)

sleep diary, if you have not already given it to your doctor

anything to help make your sleep feel more like home, such as a favorite pillow or blanket book, magazines or newspapers, if you wish

insurance/Medicare cards

continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or bi-level machine, if you have one

evening and morning snack, if you have diabetes

portable oxygen system for the ride to and from the Sleep Center, if you use oxygen at home. If you need to use oxygen during the test, it will be supplied at the Sleep Center.

What not to bring to the sleep center

Please do not bring:

jewelry or valuable items

large amount of cash

visitors, unless you have already talked about having visitors with the staff.

Preparing for your sleep study

Arrange for a ride home, if needed. Check with the sleep center to see what time you will be ready to go home.

Try to have a normal sleep the night before the sleep study.

The day of your sleep study:

  • Get up at your normal time. Do not sleep in.
  • Take your regular medicine(s) unless you received other directions from your doctor.
  • Do not eat or drink caffeine after noon. This includes coffee, tea, cola beverages and chocolate.
  • Eat a regular meal at dinnertime.
  • Try to keep your normal daytime routine.
  • Do not take a nap.
  • Do not drink any alcohol.
  • Take a shower or bath and wash your hair. Do not use any bath oils, creme rinse or hair conditioners.
  • After your bath or shower, do not use mousse, gel, hairspray, make-up or skin lotion. These products will leave your skin oily and make it difficult for the sensors and electrodes to stay on your skin.
  • Men should be clean-shaven (except for men who have permanent beards or mustaches).
  • If you smoke, have your last cigarette before entering the building. You will need to be nicotine-free for two to three hours before the sleep study. Allina Health is a smoke-free facility.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Polysomnography (Sleep study), neuro-ahc-23688
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department
First Published: 04/01/2006
Last Reviewed: 04/11/2011

Sleep study: What to expect

For the sleep study, you will spend the night at a sleep center. Special electrodes and sensors will be placed on your head, face, chest, legs and finger. A video camera will record you sleeping.

The study has little to no discomfort, and it will last for at least six hours.

Sometimes additional testing may be needed, and you will be asked to stay for more testing during the next day. Please make arrangements should you need to stay.

Before the sleep study
During the sleep study
After the sleep study

Sleep study results

If you have sleep apnea and testing indicates that a CPAP machine could help control it, the sleep technologist will talk with you about your option of having a machine ordered for you to use at home.

  • A doctor at the Sleep Center will interpret your study results.
  • You will have a follow-up appointment with your regular doctor or the Sleep Center doctor. He or she will talk with you about the results, your therapy options and answer any questions or concerns you have.
  • Your sleep study results will take some time to read. Please do not call your doctor for results before your follow-up appointment.

If you have any general questions, call your doctor.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Polysomnography (Sleep study), neuro-ahc-23688
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department
First Published: 04/01/2006
Last Reviewed: 04/14/2011

Allina Health Sleep Centers

A good night's sleep gives you energy to burn all day long. But if you're not getting the sleep you need, it can have a negative impact on your mood, relationships, work performance, and your long-term health.

Sleep disorders have been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

Sleep specialists at Allina Health Sleep Centers have the expertise and equipment necessary to diagnose and treat your sleep disorder, so you can start every day at your best.

Allina Health sleep center locations include:

  • testing, diagnosis and treatment, all under one roof
  • exceptional clinical staff trained to find solutions that fit your lifestyle
  • comfortable, hotel quality environment for sleep testing
  • appointments scheduled within two weeks

Sleep quiz

Do I have a sleep problem? The answers to a few simple questions may show whether you might need a sleep study.