Sleep Lab: When Do You Need To Visit One? What Happens There?

A sleep lab is a facility designed to evaluate a range of sleep disorders. Over and above offering facilities for scientific evaluation of sleep, a sleep lab is built to offer comfort, convenience and ease of use for the patient.

Also called a sleep center, sleep study center, overnight sleep study center, etc; there can be three categories of a sleep lab:

–          hospital based

–          university based

–          privately owned or “freestanding”

How does one know about the quality of services offered by a facility? 

The best way is to check whether it is accredited by The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) who sets strict rules for centers to follow. When a sleep center achieves AASM accreditation it demonstrates a commitment to provide quality diagnostic services and patient care. AASM accreditation is also required for reimbursement of many sleep medicine services.

The AASM accreditation covers two types of sleep disorders, and both these types of operations must meet the same high standards of diagnostic procedures and patient care facilities:

–          Sleep disorder centers provide diagnostic services and treatment for all types of sleep disorders.

–          A sleep lab primarily focuses on sleep-related breathing disorders like sleep apnea. For testing of other sleep disorders, the patient is usually referred to a sleep center.

What types of sleep tests are done in these places? 

There are usually three types of sleep evaluation tests done at a sleep center:

–          The polysomnogram (PSG): A multi-parametric diagnostic procedure that detects and records several biophysical changes that occur during sleep.

–          Multiple sleep latency test (MSLT): An objective diagnostic tool that tests sleep onset rapid eye movement sleep periods (SOREMPS), useful for diagnosing narcolepsy.  According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), MSLT is considered to be the de facto standard for the objective measurement of sleepiness

–          Maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT): Results of this test shows whether the inability to remain awake is a public health risk and a matter of personal safety.

What should one look for in a sleep lab? 

–          State-licensed physician should be the medical director. He or she must have adequate experience in medicines for sleep disorder. This is the person responsible for overall patient care.

–          Sleep specialist on board, certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine. This person who is responsible for certifying the results of all studies and train the technical staff must have an MD, DO or PhD degree with a doctoral specialty in a health-related field.

–          While a center ought to have a specialist, a laboratory may have a pulmonologist with experience and expertise in sleep medicine.

–          Patient rooms must be comfortable and allow privacy.

–          All charges must comply with both federal and state guidelines.

–          The laboratory must follow the American Medical Association’s “Code of Medical Ethics.”

Recommended resources to help you with sleep testing: 

–          To check whether your sleep doctor is certified: check with www.abim.org or www.absm.org

–          To check whether the sleep facility is accredited: visit www.aasmnet.org

–          To check if sleep technologist is registered: check www.brpt.org

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