What to Expect During a Sleep Study

Man Sleep Test CNervous about being able to fall asleep during your sleep study? You’re not alone! But Kaye Liles, manager of the Memorial Medical Center and SIU School of Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Center is confident that a sleep study is nothing to, well, lose sleep over.

“People always worry they won’t be able to fall asleep with all the monitoring devices,” Kaye said. “But the technician’s job is to make you comfortable and ease any fears or anxieties by explaining what is being done. Even with all the sensors, most people do actually fall asleep fairly quickly.”

The monitoring, which is pain-free and involves no needles, includes the following sensors:

  • Electrodes on the scalp and face monitor brainwaves. These are applied with paste and tape which are safe and hypoallergenic.
  • A small, flat plastic snore sensor is taped to the neck.
  • EKG patches on the chest monitor heart rate.
  • Soft, stretchy belts around the chest and abdomen measure breathing.
  • Electrodes taped to the legs monitor leg and body movement.
  • Soft, flexible nasal cannulae placed in the nostrils measure nasal airflow.
  • A pulse sensor taped on the finger measures oxygen levels.

The sensors are gathered together and secured, almost like a ponytail, to allow for moving and turning in the bed. They are connected to a small portable box so if you need a bathroom break, the box has a lanyard that can be easily placed around the neck and carried without removing the sensors.

At least six hours of sleeping is needed to provide adequate data for diagnosis and treatment. Then, patients should follow up with their referring physician 10 days to two weeks after the study. Results are generally available within a week of the study.

If you are concerned you or a loved one has a sleep disorder, plan to discuss a sleep study with your physician. Most sleep centers require a referral for a sleep study by a primary care physician or sleep specialist.

Kaye Liles is a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and manager of Memorial Medical Center’s Pulmonary Functions Laboratories. Kaye has worked at Memorial as an RRT for a total of 24 years, 18 of those years were in the Sleep Disorders Center as a clinician before moving into her current position as manager.