Apnea Sleep Study

A full apnea sleep study is known as “polysomnography”. In addition to breath data, this kind of sleep study collects and analyzes data regarding many other aspects of sleep. Here are some of the other aspects of sleep that an apnea sleep study tracks:

  • Brain activity – sticky pads are connected to your scalp and an electronic device which looks like the lie detectors on TV shows graphs your brainwaves.
  • Eye movement – Sensors are connected in a similar fashion to your eyelids. It graphs movement to detect REM sleep.
  • Chin movement – yet another device detects movement of your chin. It measures movement of the chin muscle, which is an indicator of arousal in the upper airway muscles.
  • Airflow from nose and mouth – sensors similar to those in carbon dioxide detectors collect this data.
  • Respiratory effort is monitored with an elastic sensor belt around chest and abdomen.
  • Body position
  • Heart rate – done with an electrocardiogram (EKG).
  • Oxygen saturation of blood, which is done with oximetry (a small clamp on the finger). Light is used to detect the level of oxygen in the blood by measuring absorption of light wavelengths.
  • Limb movement. This is done with muscle movement detectors on the shins. Leg movements are an indication of wakefulness or disturbed sleep.


As might be assumed all of this equipment is contained within a hospital setting. All of the necessary equipment, and the personnel capable of utilizing it, are expensive. A typical apnea sleep study will cost around $2000.00 and is usually paid or partially paid by insurance.

Most hospitals have sleep study components or “sleep labs”. Specialized providers operate sleep centers which target individuals with sleep disorders. These can be considered “one-stop” shopping for assessment, consultation with doctors, and administering a sleep test.

In these “sleep disorder shops” there seems to be a sleep patient assembly line mentality. Doctor – patient relationships may be missing. However, in a great many doctor offices the use of nurse practitioners may already have reduced this relationship in order to achieve cost savings.

Sleep apnea can affect many body functions, not the least of which is oxygen in the blood. In order to correctly monitor a patient it is necessary to measure all facets associated with sleep apnea. This includes attainment of REM sleep, brain waves and apnea events. And yes, it is possible for a patient to fall completely asleep with wires stuck everywhere!

Hospital settings and scheduling of studies are done in a manner to make the patient feel as comfortable as possible to simulate normal bedtime activity. This includes TV or radio, reading material or other activity normally experienced by patient.

In the US, Medicare requires a patient, even if previously tested and diagnosed with sleep apnea, to undergo this test. This is necessary for Medicare to cover the cost of a CPAP device or even smaller supplies such as masks. Medicare pays for this test.

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