Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy, are diagnosed through sleep testing. Sleep testing is performed either in a laboratory or at home depending on the indication.

How it works

During an overnight sleep study, sensors record brain and muscle activity, eye movements, breathing patterns, heart rate and oxygen. On the night of testing, patients go to sleep at their usual bedtime in a private room. If no other tests are scheduled, they leave the laboratory in the morning. Prior to testing, patients are asked to complete a sleep questionnaire and diary. Evaluations for some disorders require additional testing the following day.

A better experience

The following instructions can improve the patient experience:

  • Avoid napping the day of the study.

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sedatives and stimulants for 24 hours unless otherwise directed by your physician.

  • Eat your regular evening meal before you arrive for testing. Breakfast is usually provided only to those who stay for daytime testing.

  • On the day of testing, keep your hair free of oil, sprays and other products.

  • Bring your regularly scheduled medications unless your physician instructs otherwise.

  • Bring comfortable sleep attire (avoid silk) and anything else you will need to make the night comfortable including reading materials, your favorite pillow or stuffed animal.

  • Shower facilities are provided so that you can go directly to work the next day.

  • If you are using positive airway pressure therapy, bring your mask and headgear.

  • If you are under 18 years of age, a parent or guardian is required to stay.

  • Notify the sleep laboratory if you have a disability that requires special assistance.

Staying in

Home sleep testing is a now widely available diagnostic test to confirm the diagnosis of sleep apnea in select cases. Home testing is performed in the comfort of the patient’s home using a portable sleep monitor that measures breathing and oxygen. Patients receive education on how to hook up the sensors at home and return the device the next day. While not right for everyone, this is a cost-effective and convenient alternative for many patients.

Regardless of the type of sleep test, patients should expect not to sleep as well as they normally do at home and reassured that these limitations generally do not jeopardize the value of the study.