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Time for a sleep study?

reviewed 10/25/2018

Sleep study

Is it right for you?

Is a good night’s sleep something you only dream of? You’re not alone. About 70 million Americans are tossing and turning along with you. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, talk to a sleep medicine specialist. They may recommend a sleep study that can help diagnose it. Also called polysomnography, it can pinpoint your sleep problem so your doctor can determine how to treat it.

Do you snore?

If you answered "yes." Snoring is a common sleep disorder by itself, but it can also be a serious symptom of other sleep disorders like sleep apnea. It’s one of the things your doctor will ask about when you discuss your sleep history. You’ll also talk about medications you’re taking and describe your work, exercise and sleep routines.

If you answered "no." Snoring is a common sleep disorder by itself, but it can also be a serious symptom of other sleep disorders like sleep apnea. If you see a doctor about sleep problems, you’ll discuss your sleep history—including snoring. You’ll also talk about medications you’re taking and describe your work, exercise and sleep routines.

Are you exhausted during the day, even after a good night of sleep?

If you answered "yes." Lack of sleep can cause problems with learning, focusing and reacting. It can make it challenging to remember things, cope with change, and control emotions and behavior. If you can easily doze off while watching TV or riding in a car, you may have a sleep deficiency.

If you answered "no." What a relief. Lack of sleep can cause problems with learning, focusing and reacting. It can make it challenging to remember things, cope with change, and control emotions and behavior. Folks who can easily doze off while watching TV or riding in a car may be sleep-deficient.

Is it normal for you to have trouble falling asleep?

If you answered "yes." That’s a horrible feeling. You may worry that your inability to fall asleep will be worse at a sleep lab, but most are set up to resemble private hotel rooms. Each room has a comfortable bed as well as monitoring equipment.

If you answered "no." You shouldn’t have trouble falling asleep at a sleep lab either. Many people worry about this. But most sleep labs are set up to resemble private hotel rooms. Each room has a comfortable bed as well as monitoring equipment.

Do you use alcohol or drugs or take any medications?

If you answered "yes." Taking medications or using drugs or alcohol can mess with your sleep patterns. Though they may help you get to sleep in the short term, in the long term they can lead to sleep deprivation. Be honest with your doctor about your habits. This will make it easier to get your sleep back on track.

If you answered "no." Even legal medications and substances—like coffee—can interfere with your sleep. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take and your intake of things like coffee, tea and soda. Your doctor can best help you when they have the full picture.

Do you wake up frequently during the night?

If you answered "yes." Keep track of these moments. A sleep diary can help you and your doctor determine what’s behind your sleep challenges. Jot down how much sleep you got, when you went to bed, when you got up—and how many times you woke up in the night.

If you answered "no." If you sleep through the night but are concerned about your sleep for other reasons, consider keeping a sleep diary. Jot down how much sleep you got, when you went to bed, when you got up, and any other feelings or experiences. You or your doctor may notice patterns.

Are you a shift worker or do you travel frequently for work?

If you answered "yes." Lack of sleep can affect anyone, but people who have schedules that conflict with their internal clocks are more likely to have sleep problems. Shift workers and folks who travel extensively for work are at higher risk than those with more regular schedules.

If you answered "no." Lack of sleep can affect anyone, but shift workers and folks who travel extensively for work are at higher risk. If your schedule allows for consistent sleeping hours, you’re in a better position for better sleep.

Have you been told that you hold your breath while you sleep?

If you answered "yes." These pauses in breathing are a sign of sleep apnea. A sleep study can diagnose this disorder. A study will track how often you stop breathing and how often your breathing is partly blocked. It will also record your brain waves and muscle movements.

If you answered "no." That’s good news—pauses in breathing are a sign of sleep apnea. Of course, if you sleep alone or your partner is a heavy sleeper, you may have breathing pauses you don’t know about. So if you feel excessively sleepy during the day, tell your doctor. A sleep study can diagnose this and other sleep disorders.

Results

Talk with your doctor about your results, and be sure to ask any questions that came up in this assessment. Together, you can decide what the right next step is for you.

Sources: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health

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