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sleep study

Alternative Names 
sleep study, rapid eye movement study, polysomnogram

A sleep study, or polysomnogram, continuously measures and records brain and body activities during sleep.

Who is a candidate for the procedure? 
A sleep study may be performed if a person has:
  • insomnia or other sleep disorders
  • narcolepsy, which is excessive daytime sleepiness
  • sleep apnoea. This condition causes low oxygen levels and frequent wake-ups due to blockage of the upper air passages.
  • trouble breathing during sleep
  • behaviour disturbances during sleep, such as sleepwalking
  • lasting nightmares
  • rapid eye movement disorders
  • restless leg syndrome, with abnormal leg movements during the night
How is the procedure performed? 
The procedure takes place in a sleep study laboratory over the course of the night. It is important to try to duplicate normal sleep patterns. Heavy exercise should not be done on the day of the study. A person should also avoid:
  • sleeping pills
  • alcohol
  • stimulant medications, such as diet pills
Usually, the person arrives at the laboratory around 9 p.m. for the study. A technologist will attach electrodes to the skin and scalp. This may take an hour. The electrodes do not pierce the skin, but are held in place by removable gel and tape.

When the person is ready to go to bed, the electrodes are linked to recording equipment. The technologist sits in a central control area, which is separate from the bedrooms. During the observation period, the person is attached to the following: What happens right after the procedure? 
The electrodes are removed in the morning, and the person can then go home.

What happens later at home? 
The person should make an appointment to discuss the test results with his or her doctor. It may take a few weeks to get the results.

What are the potential complications after the procedure? 
It may be hard to sleep well during the study, and a person will often feel tired afterwards.

Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 12/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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