Sleeping is a critical part of life. No matter who you are- man or woman, young or old – you spend an estimated third of your lifespan sleeping. As such a large part of our lives, sleep is studied by doctors all around the globe.
Typically, when doctors try to diagnose sleep issues, they will ask their patient to perform what is called a sleep test. To many, this may sound like a reason for anxiety, but it isn’t. It is just a way to check for sleep conditions like sleep apnea. Proper diagnostics will allow your physician to recommend a suitable, full-blown treatment plan.
Sleep tests are typically performed in sleep centers which are places made to study sleep and sleep conditions. You or a loved one will stay at a sleep center between 24 hours to a full week. Severe sleeping issues can usually be detected overnight.
What should you expect at a sleep center?
At a sleep center, you or a loved one will stay in a private room designed to look and feel as comfortable as possible; the sleep center rooms may resemble hotel rooms. You will likely interact with a technician or nurse at the sleep center as they run the sleep center and report the results from the sleep tests. Afterwards, a board certified sleep physician will review the recorded results and will make a diagnosis. Sleep tests are painless and noninvasive.
What are different types of sleep tests?
A Polysomnogram is the medical term for sleep study. The technician will attach sensors to various parts of your body and will belt sensors to you to detect breathing inconsistencies. Putting the equipment on may feel a little uncomfortable but it’s required to perform the test. Throughout the night, the technician will record biological functions including eye movement, brain wave activity, heart rhythm, and breathing, among others.
2. Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT)
If your physician suspects you have a daytime sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy, you may be given a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). This test measures how quickly you fall asleep in an environment devoid of stimuli. During these tests, you or a loved one will be placed in a dark, quiet room; sensors will measure the various stages of your sleep throughout the study.
3. Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT)
Finally, the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT) is used to gauge the effectiveness of different treatment options as well as test your alertness during the daytime. This sleep test is similar to the MSLT, as it also involves similar environmental elements; except, this time the physicians don’t want you to fall asleep, and you will be woken up upon falling asleep.
The MWT is a personal test of a patient’s ability to maintain a full attention span and alertness over the course of a long period of time; bus and truck drivers may be required to take this test.
Other sleep tests exist and can be performed outside of a sleep center. For instance, Actigraphy involves using a device called an actigraph to record your sleeping patterns. The device is usually worn for a week so that your doctor can collect enough information about your sleeping habits. He or she may also ask you to keep a sleep diary.
Sleep tests are performed in comfortable environments, with minimal invasions to your privacy and comfort. They are used to diagnose sleep disorders and to test levels of alertness at different points in the day (and under different circumstances). Overall, they serve as useful tools in dealing with the sleep patterns of you or a loved one.
If you feel like you’re having sleeping problems, or you know someone who is, read more about snoring and sleep apnea disorders on our website to learn more.