What To Know About Sleep Studies

By HealthPriceCompare - Jul 19, 2023

Sleep is in. Not that it was ever out but it is now more popular than ever with a newfound realization of the short and long-term health benefits of consistent and adequate shut-eye.

A sleep study, known technically as polysomnography, is a medical test that helps diagnose sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, insomnia and nighttime behaviors like sleepwalking. These studies are a vital diagnostic tool for many sleep disorders, but aren't necessary in all cases, depending on a person's symptoms and overall health.

Who needs a sleep study?

Sleep studies can be used to diagnose a variety of health issues. Before being performed, your physician will consider other factors such as the severity of your symptoms and the effectiveness of previous interventions. Here are some signs that may indicate the need to have one performed:

Persistent daytime sleepiness: If you often feel excessively tired during the day, despite getting an adequate amount of sleep, it could be a sign of a sleep disorder.

Loud snoring: Frequent and loud snoring, especially accompanied by gasping or choking sounds, may indicate a condition called sleep apnea, which can disrupt your sleep.

Pauses in breathing during sleep: If your partner or family members have observed episodes where you stop breathing during sleep, it could be a sign of sleep apnea.

Witnessed abnormal behaviors during sleep: If you exhibit unusual behaviors during sleep, such as sleepwalking, talking in your sleep, or acting out vivid dreams, a sleep study may be recommended.

Chronic insomnia: If you have persistent difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which affects your daily functioning, a sleep study may help identify the underlying cause.

Restless leg syndrome: If you experience uncomfortable sensations in your legs that are relieved by movement, leading to disrupted sleep, a sleep study can help diagnose restless leg syndrome.

How is it performed?

Physicians monitor the patient during this non-invasive, overnight exam by recording brain waves, nighttime sleep patterns, blood oxygen levels, patient heart rate and breathing, eye and leg movements. This reveals a detailed picture of a patient's sleep patterns including how much time is spent in light and deep stages, whether enough oxygen is being received, how often one awakens and whether sleep is disrupted by factors such as arm and leg movements. It is typically performed in a specialized lab that is set up for overnight stays in a hospital or sleep center.

Initial assessment: Prior to the full study being performed, a preliminary assessment with a specialist or technician is performed. They will discuss symptoms, medical history, answer any questions the patient may have.

Preparing for the study: Upon arriving at the sleep center, the patient is shown to a private room designed to resemble a comfortable bedroom. The technician will explain the procedure and answer any remaining questions. The patient will then change into their own sleepwear.

Electrode placement: Sleep studies involve the attachment of various painless and non-invasive sensors, called electrodes, to the body using adhesive patches or gel to specific areas on your scalp, forehead, face, chest, limbs, and sometimes the legs. These electrodes record and monitor different physiological signals throughout the night.

Monitoring equipment: The electrodes are connected to monitoring equipment that records brain activity (EEG), eye movements (EOG), muscle activity (EMG), heart rate and rhythm (ECG), breathing patterns, oxygen levels, and other parameters. The equipment is designed to be as minimally intrusive as possible, allowing for movement and sleep comfort.

Sleep recording: The patient then goes to bed at their usual time. While sleeping, an EEG monitors sleep stages and the cycles of REM and non-REM (or NREM) during the night, to identify possible disruptions in sleeping patterns. Video monitoring to observe any accompanying behaviors may also be performed.

Morning wake-up: The sleep study typically ends in the morning. The technician will remove the electrodes, and you'll have the opportunity to get ready for the day. Some sleep centers may offer a light breakfast or refreshments before the patient leaves.

Data analysis: Once completed, a sleep specialist will analyze the recorded data, looking for patterns and abnormalities. They will interpret the results and provide a diagnosis, if applicable, along with any necessary recommendations or treatment options.

It's important to note that sleep studies can vary depending on the specific type of study being conducted and the sleep center's protocols. Some studies may involve additional monitoring devices or specialized tests based on the suspected sleep disorder.

How much does it cost?

The cost of a sleep study can vary significantly depending on the type of study needed, location and insurance coverage. Insurance contracted prices can range from less than $100 to over $3,379 with a median national price of $480. For uninsured or self-paying patients, discounted cash prices range from less than $100 to nearly $3,000.

If you are in a high-deductible health plan, short-term limited duration health plan or are a self-paying patient, you can research insurance contracted and discounted cash prices with HealthPriceCompare. When you need a sleep study, its cost shouldn't be something that makes you lose sleep.