Considering a Sleep Study? Here's What You Need to Know.

February 9, 2024 · Morgan Jackson

Considering a Sleep Study? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Studies suggest that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. Sleep specialists commonly use sleep studies — alongside other effective treatment methods — to help people find solutions for various sleep challenges. Whether you’re experiencing sporadic sleep interruptions or full sleep apnea, a sleep study is often the first step toward better, fuller rest.

What is a Sleep Study?

A sleep study examines common sleep activities — including brain activity, physical movement, and circadian rhythm — to assess your entire sleep profile. Sleep studies commonly monitor critical body functions to determine any trends or outliers in healthy sleep activity. They help identify causes behind insufficient sleep, frequent interruptions, oversleeping, or other issues. Doctors use insight gained from one or more sleep studies when creating treatment plans.

Clinicians use different types of sleep studies to accomplish various goals. While some studies are better for diagnosing challenges in sleep-related brain activity, others primarily monitor physical symptoms like snoring or partial wake episodes.

Here are a few types of sleep studies that commonly help people understand their sleep problems:

  • Diagnostic overnight polysomnography (PSG): Basic sleep test that monitors functions like blood oxygen levels, arm and leg movements, breathing patterns, and heart rhythms.
  • CPAP titration: Overnight monitoring where patients wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, typically to test for sleep apnea. If patients are found to have sleep apnea, they return for a second night so clinicians can determine the right air pressure for CPAP treatment.
  • Split-night PSG: A variation of CPAP titration where clinicians use the first half of the night diagnosing sleep apnea and the second half of the night testing air pressure levels.
  • Home sleep apnea test (HSAT): Some doctors allow you to perform a sleep test in the comfort of your own home, to improve convenience and alleviate any anxiety. A sleep technician will visit your home to set up the test, or you’ll be responsible for test setup after consulting your clinician. At-home sleep tests test many of the same sleep metrics, including oxygen levels and breathing patterns.

Clinicians and sleep specialists sometimes follow an evening test with a daytime multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). This examination requires daytime napping to further diagnose conditions.

How Do I Prepare for a Sleep Study?

Your sleep specialists will provide specific instructions to help you prepare for a sleep study. These instructions commonly include guidelines for your diet and lifestyle habits in the days leading up to the study itself.

Here are a few ways to prepare for a sleep study:

  • Share your medical history with your clinician: Inform your medical provider about any medical conditions you face, even if they’re not sleep-related. It’s also important to provide content for any previous sleep studies or treatments you’ve received.
  • Keep a sleep journal: Write down details about your sleep patterns and habits in the days leading up to your sleep study. This will help your clinical team better understand your condition and expectations for the study.
  • Limit substance intake: Like smoking, caffeine is a stimulant, which means it increases your brain activity in the hours after you consume it. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that could alter your brain’s normal activity in the days leading up to your sleep study.

As much as possible, maintain your daily routine — including your sleep routine — in the days before a sleep study. This means keeping your diet, sleep health, exercise levels, and other habits the same to avoid any abnormal readings during the study itself.

What Happens During a Sleep Study?

You’ll be shown to a private room on the day of your sleep study. Many sleep studies use rooms designed to resemble a bedroom, to make you as comfortable as possible and create a realistic sleep scenario. You might notice that your room is equipped with various monitoring devices to record your sleep activities throughout the night into the morning.

While you slumber, sleep technicians will take readings from several pieces of sleep technology. These items might include an electroencephalogram (EEG), which monitors brain waves and helps differentiate between different stages of sleep. These items typically also include an electrooculogram (EOG) and an electromyogram (EMG), which respectively measure eye movements and muscle activity.

You have one job during the study itself: sleep! Your goal is to sleep as naturally as possible while the clinical sleep team takes various readings. The healthcare professional administering your study will be able to answer any further questions you might have regarding sleep comfort or the study itself.

What Happens After a Sleep Study?

Your clinical team will begin analyzing collected data soon after the study is over. They’ll look for patterns in your sleep habit, brain activity, eye movements, and other factors to determine any applicable sleep conditions. Once they conclude their findings, they’ll provide you with a comprehensive report that includes potential next steps. The report itself will include details on any disorders or sleep abnormalities you might face.

Based on these findings, your sleep specialist will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. For example, your sleep doctor might determine that lifestyle changes are in order to help combat poor sleep health. They might also suggest changing your sleep schedule, altering your sleep environment, or further medical interventions or medication.

How Else Can I Improve My Sleep?

Sleep studies are a large step in the right direction if you have trouble sleeping at night. However, they’re not the only strategy you can use if you want a better night’s sleep. It’s also important to eliminate evening blue light, use the right sleep accessories, and choose the right mattress.

Eliminate Blue Light

In today's digital age, exposure to blue light from phones and other devices can significantly impact your sleep patterns. Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles.

Eliminating blue light exposure at least 60 minutes before bedtime is one of the best ways to promote better sleep. This includes avoiding screens on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or television when possible. If you need to use a screen less than an hour before bedtime, make sure to use a blue light filter to limit its effects.

Use the Right Sleep Accessories

Your preferred sleep accessories can impact the quality of your sleep in major ways. For example, pillows play a crucial role in supporting your head, neck, and spine alignment, providing comfort for your limbs while reducing the risk of stiffness or pain. Additionally, investing in a high-quality and suitable pillow based on your sleep position (side, back, or stomach) can help alleviate issues like snoring and sleep apnea.

Bedding materials like sheets and blankets should be breathable, comfortable, and suited to your preferences for temperature regulation. By using the right sleep accessories tailored to your individual needs, you can create a sleep environment conducive to restful sleep.

Choose the Right Mattress

In many cases, the difference between a great night’s sleep and a poor night’s sleep starts with your mattress. While high-quality mattresses are quite literally engineered to help you sleep better, a bad mattress leads to body stiffness, pain, and next-day irritability.

Despite the benefits of a new mattress, changing mattresses isn’t always an easy transition to make. There’s the time you’ll need to spend researching mattresses, not to mention the financial investment that a new mattress can represent. And no one wants to spend hours in a mattress store trying every option or choosing between sleeping better or saving money.

At Mattress Warehouse, we believe that no one’s wallet should get in the way of a good night’s sleep. That’s why we created our patented bedMATCH sleep diagnostic program: to pair you with mattress options that pair best with your sleep preferences and body type. Our system considers your height, weight, and other features before identifying a selection of curated mattresses of all prices that match your sleep profile.

Take the five-minute bedMATCH quiz today to find mattresses proven to deliver better sleep for people like you. Bring your results into the nearest Mattress Warehouse, or shop online, to find and enjoy the mattress your sleep deserves.