Sleep: What Happens During a Sleep Study and Who Needs Them

People with sleep-related breathing disorders, the most common being obstructive sleep apnea, are good candidates for sleep studies. Symptoms include jerking limbs, behavioral disturbances, loud snoring and excessive daytime drowsiness. In other words, the patient has very poor sleep quality.

There are two types of sleep studies: one is performed in the lab, and the other at home.

A sleep study performed in a lab or center has a technician present. Patients are asked to stay the night, sleep in a comfortable bed, and are wired up from head to toe! Breathing patterns, muscle twitching and leg movements, and brain waves (EEG) are measured.

An at-home sleep study is focused on sleep-related breathing disorders, so there are limitations on who can participate. For example, jerking limbs are not measured. Three devices help collect data:

  • A nasal cannula (the tube commonly used with an oxygen machine), which measures breathing
  • A belt around the waist, which measures chest movements
  • An oxygen probe on your finger, which measures blood oxygen levels

A sleep study can be ordered by your primary care physician, but interpretation of the study and subsequent treatment is usually best directed by a sleep specialist. Treatment depends on what condition is diagnosed. For example, sleep apnea patients are given a special breathing device (CPAP machine) designed to help those with the condition.

It is important to discuss any signs of a sleep problem with your primary care physician, as you may be a candidate for a sleep study. Cone Health offers home and in-lab sleep studies at several locations throughout the Triad. Leading the studies is an exceptional team of board-certified sleep medicine specialists, sleep technologists and respiratory therapists, and state-of-the art sleep monitoring equipment.

Spokesperson Background:

Rakesh Alva, MD, is a pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at LeBauer Pulmonary Care and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.  Alva is a 1997 graduate of Seth G.S. Medical College and KEM Hospital. He completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowships in critical care and pulmonary medicine in 2004 at Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Alva is also board certified in sleep medicine.


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