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What Happens at a Sleep Lab?

By: Wendy Jacob - Updated: 6 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
Sleep Laboratory Gps And Sleep Sleep

A trip to the GP may result in a prescription, the recommendation of some self-help techniques, or a referral to a Sleep Laboratory for some additional testing.

Sleep is complex and it is often difficult for sufferers to describe their symptoms. This can also apply to those who believe they have little of no sleep as they find it difficult to accurately record the hours they do manage to dose.

A Sleep Laboratory is a place where sleep can be accurately recorded through observation and testing. It usually consists of individual rooms which are observed from a control room. They are equipped with all the necessary comforts for a good night's sleep and provide an environment free from disruptions, such as light, sound.

From the control room, subjects are observed and recordings taken of brain activity that will lead to correct recordings of Sleep Patterns and other conditions.

Sleep studies seek to understand what is happening during the entire sleep cycle. It involves attaching electrodes the body and recording electrical signals from the brain and muscle activity that is digitally recorded. Recordings are taken by attaching electrodes to the head and body. These are easily removed and most people manage to sleep with them attached

Tests May Include:

  • A Polysomnogram (PSG) test that electronically records sleep activities. The results show if there is a sleep disorder.
  • A Electroencephalogram which measures brain wave activity and different stages of sleep.
  • A Electromyogram that records muscle movements.
  • A Electro-oculogram, recording eye movements, particularly REM sleep.
  • A Electrocardiogram to record the heart.

Observation and Diagnosis

Patients are observed throughout their stay to determine what is happening during the different stages of sleep. They may also be asked to fill in questionnaires, which allows a subjective evaluation of the problem and how it affects long-term wellness. Although a visit to a Sleep Laboratory can be seen as stressful and affect sleep, most people find it comfortable and restful. Different tests and duration of stay may be prescribed depending on the problems.

The results will be carefully analysed and either fed back to the patient by medical staff at the laboratory or by their own GP when treatment can be discussed.

Effective Treatment

Many people have found that correct diagnosis has led to treatment that has completely changed their lives – and their sleep. For some correct evaluation of the amount of sleep they are getting has lessened anxiety when they realise that they are in fact getting more sleep than they thought.

GPs will want to discuss each case in depth before referring to a Sleep Laboratory. There are many ways of diagnosing and improving sleep before seeking outside help and with more knowledge of the problem and the available solutions a good night’s sleep is in reach.

Other Areas of Research

Many Sleep Laboratories also undertake valuable research into sleep and associated sleep conditions. They are centres of expertise which also help commercial users devise strategies that will ensure employees and others get sufficient sleep and are able to maintain alertness keeping them safe and productive.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I have an 8 month old who I cosleep with and since becoming a mum am struggling with insomnia. I feel like I've tried everything! All I want is to be a good mum but the inability to sleep is making me an emotional wreck.
Sleepless in Stockpo - 6-Dec-17 @ 10:06 AM
Sleepless in Salford - Your Question:
I can only seems to sleep in shifts of approx 2 hours. Sometimes I go back to sleep fairly quickly other nights I cannot go back to sleep. I seem to sleep more soundly in the 2 hour shifts after 6 a.m. I have been known to sleep in till dinnertime albeit in 2 hourly shifts! Any helpful ideas anyone?

Our Response:
According to certain scientists, our ancestors are more used to segmented sleep patterns; sleeping first for four hours, waking for one or two hours, then falling asleep again into a second, four-hour sleep. However, our bodies have now accustomed to the eight hour shifts because our lifestyle dictates this due to work commitments etc. I can only suggest making sure you do not sleep until lunchtime, as this will only exacerbate the issue, as it will make you feel less sleepy in the evening. Also, black-out curtains may work. There is nothing quite so sleep-provoking then your body thinking it is dark outside. One of the most disruptive things to sleep are streetlights shining through your windows. If they throw the birds into confusion, they are also likely to throw you. I hope this helps.
Insomniacs - 7-Oct-15 @ 10:18 AM
I can only seems to sleep in shifts of approx 2 hours. Sometimes I go back to sleep fairly quickly other nights I cannot go back to sleep. I seem to sleep more soundly in the 2 hour shifts after 6 a.m. I have been known to sleep in till dinnertime albeit in 2 hourly shifts! Any helpful ideas anyone?
Sleepless in Salford - 6-Oct-15 @ 12:22 AM
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