Sleep Study Results: They Tell You Why You Cannot Get Good Sleep

Why is knowing sleep study results important?  It is because the results can guide the doctor to initiate therapy for treating your sleep problems. Neglecting sleep disorders is harmful both in the short and long run as it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and other medical conditions, many of which have fatal consequences.

Inadequate sleep is also linked with increased risk of physical injury and road accidents.

Sleep study results provide insight into the following conditions:

–          Sleep related breathing disorders like sleep apnea

–          Seizures during sleep

–          Narcolepsy

Depending on the symptoms, the doctor may recommend several types of sleep studies including polysomnogram or PSG, Multiple sleep latency test, or MSLT, Maintenance of wakefulness test, or MWT and Home-based portable monitor (PM). Actigraphy is another type of test that is done if the doctor suspects that the sleep problem could be fallout of circadian rhythm disorder.

Polysomnography is by far the most common sleep study that studies a range of physiological and biological parameters including brain waves, muscle tension, eye movement, respiration, oxygen level in the blood and audio monitoring (for snoring, gasping, etc.) and generates substantial amount of data.

This overnight study not only determines the severity of the condition but also the nature of sleep disorder.   One of the most important data from the sleep study results is the apnea-hypopnea index, or AHI. The AHI is an index of the severity of sleep apnea, that combines the values of apneas (pauses in breathing) and hypopneas (numbers of shallow breathing episodes).

Sleep study results from MSLT involves measurement of daytime sleepiness. This objective diagnostic tool 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.

It is also an effective diagnostic test for idiopathic hypersomnia.

How is the result data processed? 

A written report of the sleep studies takes about 2 weeks to prepare. During this time, the sleep technologist of the sleep center scores the sleep stages as well as records the various events during sleep like abnormal breathing, leg movements, etc. A sleep physician also independently reviews the results and finalizes the interpretation before discussing with the patient and family.

Sleep study results from polysomnography show the following

–          Information about sleep and wake times

–          Sleep stages

–          Abnormal breathing during sleep

–          Blood oxygen levels

–          Body movements during sleep

The final diagnosis is made after studying the results along with medical and sleep histories of the patient before developing a plan for treatment.

Since the sleep study reveals the different stages of sleep like rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (with three stages) recurring in cycles throughout the night, patients who take less than 5 minutes to reach REM sleep are diagnosed with a sleep disorder. This is revealed from the results of the Multiple Sleep Latency Test.

Results from the Maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT) reveals whether the inability to stay awake is a matter of personal or public safety.

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