If you are struggling with sleep or tired during the day that is the first symptom of a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders are a medical condition that can affect sleep patterns at night. Many sleep disorders are adverse to your overall health and general well being. The best way to diagnose a sleep disorder is to have a sleep study. But what is a sleep study? How is it performed? What can it tell you to improve your rest? Here we walk you through all of the important things you need to know about sleep disorders, diagnosis, and treatments.
If you’re reading this, chances are you already suspect something is wrong with your sleep. Have you documented your symptoms and what may be causing your sleep issues? Most people recognize the symptoms during the day (tiredness, lack of energy, trouble concentrating, etc.), but may not be able to pinpoint what is happening at night that could be symptoms of a sleep disorder.
One of the best ways to find out what may be happening before a sleep study is to as your partner. Ask if you snore, move fitfully, if you stop breathing and resume with loud gasps or snorts, or any other sleep pattern that seems unusual. Knowing what happens during sleep helps your provider determine the right sleep study and testing for you.
In addition, starting a sleep diary with bedtimes, how long to fall asleep, hours slept, night wakings, grogginess in the morning, day tiredness, and medication, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages consumed during the day. A diary will help you discuss your sleep symptoms with your doctor.
When you’re ready to discuss your sleep issues, you’ll want to discuss your symptoms with a pulmonary and sleep specialist or ask for a referral from your primary care doctor. Bring and documentation regarding your sleep patterns and issues to these appointments. Depending on the symptoms, your doctor can help decide if a sleep study is right for you.
Previously, you would have to look for a sleep clinic that is close to your home or work and stay overnight. Special technology in our office allows you to take most sleep studies home with you! That is a big advantage because you don’t have to stay overnight at a hospital. The testing is also more accurate of what is going on in your home environment.
At our office you pick up your machine and fill out the paperwork ahead of time. We discuss with you the procedures so that you feel comfortable with all of the equipment.
So what are the different kinds of sleep studies? Depending on the suspected disorder, your symptoms and insurance coverage, your doctor will recommend the sleep study for you.
There are four types of sleep studies:
Polysomnogram (PSG). An overnight sleep study that measures a large variety of information including brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, blood pressure, body movements and more. PSGs are the go-to sleep study for almost all sleep disorders including sleep related breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, sleep related movement disorders, circadian rhythm disorders, parasomnias, hypersomnia, insomnia, and many more.
Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). A MSLT is a sleep study during the day to measure how sleepy you get or to discern whether breathing treatments for your disorder are working properly. MSLT’s follow a polysomnogram and record whether you fall asleep during the test, and if so, which stages of sleep you enter. During a MSLT you are generally given five 20-minute nap opportunities spaced 2 hours apart while a sleep technician monitors your brain activity and eye movements. A MSLT is used to test for narcolepsy.
Maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT). A MWT is a daytime sleep study that measures how alert you are during the day and your ability to stay awake. They are usually performed after a PSG and can help determine if your sleepiness is a safety concern. Results of an MWT can be critical if a person’s job involves public transportation or driving for work.
Home Sleep Test. For a home sleep test you show up to the clinic during the day and receive a small device with instructions on how to use it. If moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is the most likely cause of your sleep troubles this is an easy test to diagnose the condition.
It will usually take about a week for the doctor to analyze your results. Based on the findings your doctor will determine the sleep disorder and treatment for your disorder.
If sleep apnea is diagonsed, you may need a second sleep study called a CPAP titration. This study uses the same at-home equipment. However, this time the device will determine the positive airway pressure (CPAP) needed while sleeping to eliminate your apnea. Sometimes this study can be done during the first test if apnea has been previously diagnosed.
The treatments depend upon the sleep disorder and the severity of the disorder from the sleep study. With sleep apnea you may either be prescribed a CPAP device, get referred to a dentist for a specially designed oral device. In addition, there are alternative treatments available.
For other disorders such as circadian rhythm disorders and insomnia, often cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended with a clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist.
Other sleep disorders may be treated with medication, lifestyle changes, treating another medical condition that may be causing it, or a combination of treatment types. As there are a variety of sleep disorders, there is also a range of treatment options. Its important to go to a pulmonologist and sleep specialist to determine the best treatments for you.
Dr. Aditya Dubey is a top Northern Virginia Pulmonologist and Sleep Specialist based out of Dulles, VA with inpatient and outpatient diagnosis & treatments. He currently lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and son. He enjoys traveling with his family and exploring new areas. Learn more about our Dr. Aditya Dubey.
NOVA Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Associates, LLC of Northern Virginia treats patients with various issues in pulmonary disease, sleep disorder, and critical care. Dr. Aditya Dubey is our top rated pulmonologist affiliated with Stone Springs Hospital Center and Inova Loudoun Hospital in Loudoun County.