Sleep Studies: Helping Out Determine Sleep Problems

All night long, you have been tossing and turning on your bed, but still you can’t fall asleep. No need to fret about your night time struggles. You are not alone in your battle with insomnia. Sleep problems affects millions of Americans and the numbers seem to rise with each new year. While some people suffer from mild sleeping problems, such as having occasional nightmares, others have extremely severe sleep disorders that can negatively affect their health, if left untreated. This astonishing number means that a huge number of people aren’t getting the treatment they need, putting them in danger of permanently damaging their health.

Sleep disorders involve any difficulties related to sleeping, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, excessive total sleep time, or abnormal behaviors associated with sleep. There are more than 100 different disorders of sleeping and waking that have been identified. They can be grouped in four main categories such as:

Problems with falling and staying asleep

Problems with staying awake

Problems with adhering to a regular sleep schedule

Sleep-disruptive behaviors

But there are certain types of diagnostic sleep studies that are given by physicians to determine the causes of sleep problems. Sleep studies are tests that watch what happens to the body during sleep. The most common sleep studies or diagnostic procedures include the Polysomnogram, Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) and Multiple Wake Test (MWT).

Doctors may request a patient take polysomnograms to determine what is going on during sleep during the course of the night. The tests are done in a sleep laboratory. Patients are advised to avoid naps, caffeine, and alcohol on the day of their polysomnogram. This test records several body functions during sleep. Once in the sleeping room, monitoring devices are applied to the body of the patient or volunteer as a means to collect information. Sensors monitor the brain waves (EEG activity), heart rate (EKG), eye movements, leg muscle activity, and chest and stomach movement. Air flow from nose and mouth are also recorded. A sensor that clips onto a finger monitors the amount of oxygen in the blood.

If the doctor has specific questions, other monitors might be applied. Information is gathered from all leads and fed into a computer and outputted as a series of wavefront tracings which enable the technician to visualize the various waveforms, assign a score for the test, and assist in the diagnostic process. Usually, a polysomnogram ends around six o’clock in the morning and the patients can return to their usual daytime routine.

An MSLT test is a series of recordings to monitor a person’s sleep patterns. This test measures how long it takes for a person to fall asleep during naps taken over the course of a day. Electrodes are placed on the face and head to record eye movement, muscle tone, and brain waves. The tests usually held from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. A technologist will glue “recording electrodes” on the patient’s scalp and face and a special jelly is applied to each electrode. The patient is taken into a “sleeping” room with lights turned off and the patient is asked to sleep for 15 to 30 minutes. Recordings are taken while the patient is asleep, even if the patient cannot sleep during the test, the information taken will still be useful.

The Multiple Wake Test is also called maintenance of wakefulness test, and is intended to measure the ability to stay awake during a designated wakeful time. This test is given during the daytime. MWT usually follows an all-night sleep study. It consists of a series of 40-minute trials, during which the patient tries ti stay awake. The test is given every two hours throughout the day, with each trial lasting about 40 minutes, During each trial, sensors and electrodes record data on body functions such as heartbeat, breathing, etc. Sleeping problems are very common among us but there are different resources one can get answers for all their sleeping woes, and the tossing and turning can be just a thing of the past.

Leave a Comment