A sleep study is an easy way to see what's going on, once and for all.

Sleep apnea is no joke. Sure, it's fun to make fun of someone snoring, but if you find yourself snoring so loudly that you wake up abruptly, it's time for a sleep study. By definition, sleep apnea means that you stop breathing throughout the night, sometimes hundreds of times. 

Keep on reading to find out what it's really like in a sleep lab.

What to expect during a sleep study

You start the process with a consultation visit with a sleep specialist. After getting some baseline health information and completing a comprehensive questionnaire, you will be prescribed a sleep study.

Sleep studies can sometimes be done at home (that's the easiest way) with monitors you hook up to your chest and your wrist. You then have to return the equipment the next day so they can look at the results. Depending on your provider, however, some sleep studies are still done in a lab. Here's the process for that:

  • The night of your study, you'll go to the designated sleep center in the early evening. Don't be alarmed if it's in an office building; the suites are set up like hotel rooms and are securely monitored overnight.
  • You will be provided with a very comfortable bed, a TV, and a bathroom. You can bring your own pillow or anything you need to get to sleep.
  • A sleep tech will come in and attach over a dozen leads to your chest, legs, and head. The electrodes on your head are generally attached with a sticky putty-like substance that's a bear to wash out afterward. The leads all go to a big box which is set in the bed next to you.
  • That's it! Now try to get to sleep. You can watch TV until you doze off, or make a pillow fort and try your best to relax. It's not easy with all of the wires, but you'll eventually fall asleep.

What does the sleep study measure?

Basically, the study measures how often you wake up or stop breathing. Your blood oxygen level will also be monitored, along with any restless leg reactions. If you are actively exhibiting sleep apnea during an in-lab study, the tech may wake you halfway through the study to try a CPAP machine. They will then study how you do with the aid of the CPAP for the remainder of your sleep time. 

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What happens after the sleep study?

Depending on your diagnosis, you may be prescribed a retainer-like thing to help with your snoring, or you may be fitted for a CPAP or APAP machine. Obstructive sleep apnea means that something is physically keeping the air from getting in and you need that extra help of positive airflow into your nose. Granted, a CPAP machine isn't the most glamorous accessory for bed, but it WILL keep you from snoring if the fit is right.

On a personal note, the first couple of weeks with a CPAP machine, I absolutely hated it. I woke up after 4-5 hours, just out of nowhere. I realized though, that I was getting up because I was fully rested. I no longer felt sleepy after lunch at work and I felt mentally sharper. Months later, I can sleep for 6-7 hours now and I still wake up completely refreshed.

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I'm still not convinced I need a sleep study; how bad is sleep apnea REALLY?

It's very bad. Bad for your heart, bad for your mental acuity, bad for your general well-being. If you find yourself tired throughout the day, it's because you're not getting enough of the right kind of sleep.

"Sleep apnea causes your heart to work harder. By not having the right amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, your heart has to pump more to keep everything working properly." explained Dr. Homan Wai, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the VCU School of Medicine Inova Campus. "In addition to disrupting your rest, sleep apnea makes everything work less efficiently and over time can put major strain on your heart."

For more information on getting a sleep study, either in a lab or at home, talk to your primary care physician or check your insurance carrier for a sleep specialist.

Courtesy of Everyday Health

Have you had a sleep study done? Do you use a CPAP machine? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!