Take a closer look at your sleep

Over the last 50 years, scientists have tried to unravel mysteries, by monitoring people as they sleep.

What is a sleep study?

A sleep study is a complex neurophysiological recording conducted as part of an overall evaluation to look at what is happening during sleep.  Many things are recorded including brain wave activity (EEG), muscle tone (EMG), heart rate (ECG), breathing patterns, oxygen levels, leg movements and video of abnormal movements and behaviours.  In addition these standard recording channels, there are a range of additional recordings that can be added depending upon the clinical problem.

How does a sleep study work?

Sleep studies are generally conducted in a sleep laboratory, which is a specially constructed facility, often within a hospital, with measures to control noise, light and electrical interference.  In the evening, sleep technologists apply recording electrodes, and monitor recordings whilst patients are sleeping.  Alternatively, advances in technology now allow good quality sleep recordings to be performed in the home.  In around 1 in 20 cases, sleep studies performed at home need to be repeated because a critical recording electrode has become disconnected during sleep. For selected patients, having a sleep study at home provides an alternative to sleep laboratory-based studies.

What happens next?

Once a sleep study has been performed, the data recorded needs to be analysed.  This is very time consuming, as during an average sleep study around 1000 pages of information are recorded, and these are looked at page by page to determine the type of sleep and number of events such as breathing problems that occur across the night. 

What does my sleep physician do?

The sleep physician’s role is to integrate the data recorded during a sleep study with a patient’s symptoms to make a diagnosis and treatment plan that is suited to the individual patient.

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