Sleep is very vital for everyone until it becomes sickening.
(FYI: Sleep facilities used to be called sleep centers or sleep clinics, but now they’re referred to as facilities, as per the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.)
More often than not, they’ll recommend an at-home test if they believe you have sleep apnea, a common and serious condition that affects your breathing, or restless leg syndrome, a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge for you to move your legs.
Both of these conditions are able to be detected by an at-home test, so the logic is: Why do an in-lab test if you don’t need to?
The at-home test itself is fairly simple. It’s basically a monitor that measures your oxygen and breathing levels through several different components:
- two belts that wrap around your chest and abs to measure movements associated with breathing
- a small device called a pulse oximeter that goes on your finger to measure how much oxygen is in your blood
- a small tube called a breathing sensor that goes in your nostrils and behind your ears to analyze your breathing patterns
Unfortunately, oximeter numbers are generally not as accurate for Black people, as the numbers are harder to detect — but health scholars and activists are currently working to change thatTrusted Source.
“It’s a simple system, and patients pick up on how to use it pretty quickly: You turn it on at night, turn it off in the morning, and then bring it back to the sleep center,” explains Michael Friedman, MD, FACS, medical director at Chicago ENT.
If the data collected was invalid because of technical issues that happened overnight (dislodgement of the finger probe is a big one there), you may be asked to do the test again.
Or, if your home test showed that your sleep apnea is severe and you experienced a significant drop in oxygen levels during the night, you may be asked to take an in-lab study after all. This will help you figure out the appropriate positive air pressure device that needs to be used.
Pack your pajamas
If your doctor suggests you come in for an in-lab overnight sleep study, fret not: It’s not as daunting as you may think.
“In the past, sleep tests used to take place in a hospital bed, so it was essentially torture, as no one wants to go into a hospital. But modern-day sleep labs are different — they’re comfortable now,” Friedman says.
In fact, he even likens them to hotel rooms, citing their comfortable beds, lack of noise or visual clutter, and dark ambiance with blackout shades. There’s often a bathroom attached if you need to get up in the night, too.
Most sleep labs also have simple snacks and drinks like crackers, peanut butter, bottled water, and noncaffeinated soft drinks to help you fall asleep. There are TVs and small cameras in the room, too, as the technician may watch you on video throughout the night.
But for all those who hear this and get creeped out: Keep in mind they aren’t observing you through a window or anything, so you won’t ever see them when you’re in bed.
And while there aren’t any fancy white noise machines or aromatherapy stations in a sleep lab, you’re encouraged to bring your own devices or sleep machines if you want. Generally speaking, whatever you need to do to fall asleep is fine and won’t disrupt the study.