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Sleep Study: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a sleep lab?

A sleep lab is a facility designed to investigate and treat sleep disorders. A referral is required from a physician for a sleep study. Laboratory tests are usually preceded by a clinical evaluation including a medical history, a physical examination and a sleep questionnaire. Careful analysis of this information will determine whether a laboratory evaluation is required.

About our sleep lab.

The St. Mary's Sleep Disorders Center has been visited and accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). We offer a wide range of tests and are presently staffed entirely with nationally registered polysomnographic technologists (RPSGT's). We are located at 15 Gracelawn Road, Auburn on the second floor.

What happens at the sleep lab?

During a full sleep sutdy, the staff will monitor your brain wave activity, chin muscle tone, eye movements, heart function, breathing patterns, limb movements, and blood oxygen saturation.  Other, optional tests may be done such as carbon dioxide levels.  All monitoring is done by attaching small metal discs called electrodes onto the surface of the skin.  There is no discomfort. 

What do I do as a Patient?

  • There is no special preparation needed. You should eat your usual evening meal before coming to the sleep lab, but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Take your regular medications unless told otherwise by your physician.
  • Arrive on time.
  • Do not cancel your test. Sleep disorders can be serious. Your doctor requires the results to treat your sleep problem. These tests are costly in time and expertise. We would appreciate 48 hours notification if you have to cancel or reschedule your appointment. That will allow us time to offer the appointment to another patient.
  • Make sure you have directions. Our receptionist leaves for the day at 4:30pm.
  • In order to obtain the best results, electrodes need to be placed on a clean scalp. Please ensure that you hair is clean and free of hair oils or gels on the day of your test. Men with beards and mustaches do not need to shave them off, but should be clean shaven otherwise.
  • You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire before and after your sleep study on how you are feeling and how you slept.

What to bring . . .

  • Your current insurance card
  • Your doctor's name, address and phone number
  • Whatever helps you sleep better (e.g. your pillow)
  • Reading material
  • Comfortable pajamas which are loose at the neck, slippers. No nightgowns.
  • List of all medications that you take and bring the medication that you will need to take during the night and the next day if you are staying for a daytime study, too.
  • Leave all valuable jewelry at home. The sleep lab cannot be responsible for the loss of personal possessions.
  • Your CPAP mask and headgear if you have them

Types of Studies:

Overnight Sleep Study (Polysomnogram)
The overnight polysomnogram is used to help determine the cause of excessive daytime sleepiness and to diagnose some sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and periodic limb movements in sleep. You will be asked to come to the laboratory at 8:30 or 9:00 pm. It will take about an hour to prepare you for the procedure. The technician will attach electrodes using a removable cream/gel and tape. The electrodes do not pierce the skin. You will be able to leave from a night study in time for you normal daily activities.

You may read or watch TV briefly until you are ready to go to sleep. The control area is separate from the bedroom, where the technologist monitors the procedure. A digital recording is made of the entire night to assist the physician in interpreting the results. The technologist will do all that he/she can to make your stay pleasant. Each staff member has 2 patients to care for, but they will be happy to answer any questions you might have as time allows. If you have to get up to use the bathroom, just call for the technologist and he/she will disconnect your from the monitoring equipment.

Daytime Sleep Study (MSLT or MWT)
The daytime sleep studies are done following an overnight sleep study. If you are staying for a day study, you will not be allowed any caffeine or decaffeinated beverages. If you get headaches from caffeine withdrawal, discuss this with your doctor. There is basic food available for breakfast and lunch. (cereals, bagels, fruit, toast, sandwich meats, cheese, soups and beverages among other things) If you are on a special diet, you may want to bring in your food from home. A refrigerator, microwave and toaster are available. The day study is usually done by 4:00 pm.

MSLT (Multiple Sleep Latency Test)
If you are scheduled for an MSLT, you will have 5 opportunities to take a nap at 2 hour intervals. These naps help to determine the severity of sleepiness and are used to diagnose a sleep disorder called narcolepsy.

MWT (Maintenance of Wakefulness Test)
If you are scheduled for an MWT study, you will be seated in a low lighted, quiet room and asked to stay away for 40 minute time periods. This will occur every 2 hours. This test measures you ability to stay awake. You will be ready to leave the sleep lab at about 2:30 pm.

What if I can't sleep?

The staff is well aware that this can be a problem and do not expect you to sleep the same as you do at home. A great deal can be learned from just a few hours of sleep. If you are very concerned that you will not be able to sleep at all, discuss it with your doctor. Occasionally, a sleep aid medication can be given just before bedtime.

Do I have to stay in one position all night? 
No. You will be free to move from side to side and onto your stomach or back as you desire.

Will the technologist know what I'm dreaming about? 
No. They will know that you are dreaming, but not what you are dreaming about.

Can I request if I want a male or female technologist? 
Yes. Whenever possible, your request will be honored.

When will I get the results? 
An overnight sleep study produces the equivalent of 800 or more pages of different types of data on how your body functions during sleep. The analysis and interpretation of these data are labor intensive. The "raw" data prepared by the technologist is usually available for the physician within 48 hours after your test is completed. It may take a couple of weeks before the Certified Sleep Physician has the opportunity to render his/her interpretation of the results.

How do I get to the Sleep Lab? 
Click here for directions.

St. Mary's Health System • 93 Campus Avenue • Lewiston, ME 04240