A trip to the GP may result in a prescription, the recommendation of some self-help techniques, or a referral to a Sleep Laboratory for some additional testing.
Sleep is complex and it is often difficult for sufferers to describe their symptoms. This can also apply to those who believe they have little of no sleep as they find it difficult to accurately record the hours they do manage to dose.
A Sleep Laboratory is a place where sleep can be accurately recorded through observation and testing. It usually consists of individual rooms which are observed from a control room. They are equipped with all the necessary comforts for a good night’s sleep and provide an environment free from disruptions, such as light, sound.
From the control room, subjects are observed and recordings taken of brain activity that will lead to correct recordings of Sleep Patterns and other conditions.
Sleep studies seek to understand what is happening during the entire sleep cycle. It involves attaching electrodes the body and recording electrical signals from the brain and muscle activity that is digitally recorded. Recordings are taken by attaching electrodes to the head and body. These are easily removed and most people manage to sleep with them attached
Tests May Include:
- A Polysomnogram (PSG) test that electronically records sleep activities. The results show if there is a sleep disorder.
- A Electroencephalogram which measures brain wave activity and different stages of sleep.
- A Electromyogram that records muscle movements.
- A Electro-oculogram, recording eye movements, particularly REM sleep.
- A Electrocardiogram to record the heart.
Observation and Diagnosis
Patients are observed throughout their stay to determine what is happening during the different stages of sleep. They may also be asked to fill in questionnaires, which allows a subjective evaluation of the problem and how it affects long-term wellness. Although a visit to a Sleep Laboratory can be seen as stressful and affect sleep, most people find it comfortable and restful. Different tests and duration of stay may be prescribed depending on the problems.
The results will be carefully analysed and either fed back to the patient by medical staff at the laboratory or by their own GP when treatment can be discussed.
Many people have found that correct diagnosis has led to treatment that has completely changed their lives – and their sleep. For some correct evaluation of the amount of sleep they are getting has lessened anxiety when they realise that they are in fact getting more sleep than they thought.
GPs will want to discuss each case in depth before referring to a Sleep Laboratory. There are many ways of diagnosing and improving sleep before seeking outside help and with more knowledge of the problem and the available solutions a good night’s sleep is in reach.
Other Areas of Research
Many Sleep Laboratories also undertake valuable research into sleep and associated sleep conditions. They are centres of expertise which also help commercial users devise strategies that will ensure employees and others get sufficient sleep and are able to maintain alertness keeping them safe and productive.