What to Expect During Your Sleep Study


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Any responsible doctor will suggest a sleep study if you’ve complained of snoring. That’s because she will want to rule out obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or other issues, such as over-relaxed muscles, frequent partial wakings or other issues that may be going on.

Many people put off sleep studies, though. It’s not hard to see why: sleep studies just don’t look like all that much fun. How DOES one fall asleep in a strange bed with wires everywhere? And how will any of this fit into a busy work week (or perhaps worse, a weekend you wanted to spend having fun and relaxing)?

Actually, a sleep study can be invaluable and may hold clues to get, and keep, you healthier. Here’s what to expect.

1.Making the Appointment

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You should be able to get a referral for a sleep specialist through, or even have your sleep study directly ordered by, your primary care provider, so call there first. Your doctor may want to see you in her office before writing the order, or she may be able to mail the paperwork to you if you have complained of sleep issues/snoring in the past or if she can get enough information over the phone.

“I don’t have a free day for a sleep study.” Yes you do. You sleep every night, actually, if you’re like most people. “No doctor or clinic ever has a weekend available.” Are you sure? Have you asked? Don’t assume a sleep study just won’t work out with your schedule. Doctors realize you have a life and that a sleep study can be an inconvenience. You may be surprised to find a weekend or no-work (for you) night available. Don’t put off this important step.

2. Getting Ready For the Study

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It’s true that you may have trouble falling asleep during the study. You are in a new place, you have wires attached (more on this below – we promise it won’t be as bad as you think) and you realize people are watching you. Remember that the professionals administering the test and monitoring you during sleep have done this many times before. They want you to be as comfortable as possible.

  • You may be able to take a favorite pillow or blanket with you in order to facilitate falling asleep. Be sure to ask beforehand.
  • Bring along comfortable sleep clothes.
  • Take any nighttime medications with you.
  • Arrive at your designated time. The specialists will need to prepare you for the study, so don’t be late.
  • Have everything taken care of at home. Arrange for child and pet care. If you’re nervous about forgetting to turn off the lights or remembering to perform other household night duties, ask a friend to stop in and check up on things. You don’t want to be worrying about your home affairs while you’re trying to relax during the study.
  • Eat first. Make sure you’ve had enough dinner and that you’re comfortable.

3. How You’ll Be Prepped For the Study

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This is the part most people dread, but actually, you may be surprised at how easily this goes. Yes, you will need electrodes taped to various parts of your body, including your head, arms and trunk. This is in order to monitor your vital systems and to have a peek at what’s going on in your brain during sleep. But electrodes don’t hurt and most people forget they’re there after a while (yes, really).

A small amount of conductive paste will be smeared onto each electrode. The electrode will then be placed, and a piece of surgical tape will hold everything securely. This should not be uncomfortable at all, and you won’t feel any electricity from the electrodes.

The wires will connect to machines that monitor you. Both your brain and heart will be monitored. So will your oxygen levels, blood pressure and other bodily processes.

You will probably also have a monitor attached to your finger. Again, this should be painless.

4. Falling Asleep

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This is one of the things patients worry about most. What if you just can’t fall asleep? Interestingly, even people who struggle with insomnia tend to fall asleep at some point during the sleep study. Don’t worry about this factor. Relax and see what happens. You will probably sleep more than you think, and even some sleep should reveal results your doctor can work with later.

5. After the Study

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The professionals observing you during the study will not be able to give you any results. Your doctor should call you with results and any recommendations. How long this will take depends upon your doctor’s own policies and how quickly she can get to reviewing your results.


Don’t put off your sleep study. It’s painless, it’s just one night and it could deliver information that’s invaluable to helping your snoring or other sleep issue.