Sleep studies are used to see what happens to a person’s body when they sleep. They are used to see what problems a person is having during sleep, as well as determining if there are any issues with sleep stages. The most critical sleep stages, the NREM and REM stages are monitored and any disruptions in these can be seen within these studies that can see if the person is sleeping as soundly as they should be. In fact, there are four types of sleep studies that doctors do, which address six types of sleep disorders.
Types of Sleep Studies
The four types of sleep studies that sleep clinics conduct include the following:
• MWT or testing of wakefulness maintenance – measures whether a person is able to stay awake when they are supposed to
• MSLT or testing of the multiple sleep type latency – measures how long a person takes to completely fall asleep and if the person enters a REM type sleep
• Polysomnogram – records bodily functions whilst a person sleeps, such as the person’s belly/chest movements, muscle movements, any snoring, air flow through the person’s nose and mouth, a person’s breathing rhythm and rate, a person’s heart rhythm and rate, levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, eye movements and brain type activities
• Actigraphy – measures body movements of the person whilst sleeping and awake and determines what times the person is most active and when they are sleeping; this involves the person wearing a watch-like device on their wrist; used if the doctor suspects a shift work type sleep disorder or some other Circadian rhythm (internal body clock) issue
These tests are quite often also used to determine if other underlying sleep issues exist. These can include tests for sleep time leg/arm/feet muscle twitching, the inability to fall asleep due to shift work, insomnia resulting from physical discomforts/hunger/depression/stress/other conditions, bed-wetting, night terrors, sleepwalking, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.
Where Sleep Studies Occur
Sleep studies are almost always done in special sleep clinics or labs. Many of these sleep places are situated in hospitals, but for those who have difficulty in sleeping in strange locations, special equipment can be provided to a person to take home so the studies can be done in their own home. Most importantly, these sleep studies are best done in a sleep clinic because the clinics provide a neutral environment where there are no influences from outside noise or light. However, the benefit of sleep studies done at home is that the environment is more familiar to the person and the causes of their sleep issues might only be found within their home.