How Do Sleep Labs Work?
Have you ever wondered how it feels sleeping while being hooked to a sleep monitor? Here’s how experts scientifically track your slumbers.

Sleeping issues, in some cases, are conveniently resolved through a cup of warm tea, a page of your favourite book, or a playlist of ambient music. In other cases, it does not. During the nights where you stare helplessly on your ceiling, having done all things possible to get your snooze on but failed, perhaps going to a sleep lab is your best option. Sleep labs offer a scientific analysis of your sleep, and, thanks to a certified physician, you will be able to discover why you can't doze off as soon as you hit the sack, plus some other sleeping disorders.  

There are several types of sleep lab studies, and all of them are made to evaluate your sleep. The most common, Polysomnogram (PSG), records your brain activity, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, REM and body movements during an overnight stay. In this procedure, physicians can determine various sleep-related breathing disorders (such as sleep apnea), seizures and movements, and issues caused by excessive daytime sleepiness.

Another is Multiple Sleep Latency test (MSLT), which is performed during the day. It measures whether your breathing treatments for your disorder are functioning well. MSLT follows PSG and is done in stretches of five 20-minute naptimes spaced 2 hours between. It could be done to test patients for narcolepsy.

The third one is the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT). During this test, you are evaluated for your ability to stay awake. Usually, this is performed after PSG and helps determines your sleepiness, especially if it affects your work.

Preparing for your sleep lab stay

Before you begin your overnight jaunt at the sleep lab, your physician might advise you to keep a record of your sleep for at least a week.  Here, you list down essential information regarding your sleep and wake hours; what time you got up in the morning, when did you feel rested, and which day did you get a good sleep. With these records at hand, your physician can trace where the problem is coming from. If this data won't help them diagnose your sleep disorder, that's when they will advise you to visit a sleep lab.

This part is nothing to worry about; polysomnograms do not require much, except you in your comfy pyjamas, your favourite pillow, and a change of daytime clothes. Arrive ready for bed on your usual hours, without skipping the day's work, and get ready for some snooze. A technician will administer your sleep study; after filling them on your health history, they will apply monitors on your body to trace your sleep activity. This will include trackers for brain activity, muscle and movement, breathing efforts, oxygen levels, EKG monitors and a small mic to detect your snoring.

Most patients don't go to sleep right away - don't fret if you don't. Sleep labs will allow you to bid your time and relax, watch your favourite television show, and even read your book. The technician will measure your sleeping hours on the background and will wake you up in the morning. Sleep lab results will be sent to your doctor, or a sleep specialist, for evaluation, and from here, you can discover what keeps you from sleeping peacefully and what could be done to treat it.

Who needs to go to a sleep lab?

Not all disorders require a full polysomnogram, but a basic analysis of sleep can help you unravel your nightly disorders. Some disorders cannot be determined when one is awake, such as parasomnias, obstructive apneas and adult sleep walking. It is possible that some conditions are caused by medications or triggered by untreated medical issues.

Once these disorders are pointed out, proven treatments are offered to improve the quality of your sleep. For example, those suffering in sleep apnea can be relieved with a technique called continuous positive airway pressure. Melatonin treatments are given to those who have issues with their internal body clock. Lifestyle changes and smarter sleep hygiene is encouraged for those who tend to smoke, drink and exercise close to bedtime.

Not getting your Zzzs will lead to potential health risks such as heart attack, diabetes, fatigue and morning headaches. Other than those, it will also have an effect on your mental health as well. Find out why you can't sleep, and how you can finally achieve it, with the help of the experts. A sleepover in the lab won’t hurt, especially if it paves the way for you to have improved, restful slumbers in the days to come.

Jonas Diezun

Co-Founder at RADICE

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