What happens if I can’t sleep during my sleep study?
Another immediate concern that you may have is whether you will be able to sleep during your study.
The thought of spending the night in a new environment with a multitude of recording electrodes and sensors attached to your head and body while you are being observed and heard on a closed circuit monitoring system throughout the night is enough to cause distress and anxiety among even the bravest person. The circumstances surrounding a sleep evaluation are so remarkably different from our usual sleeping experience at home that it may seem as though no one could possibly sleep normally under these conditions.
It is common to have some difficulty sleeping in a new and unfamiliar environment. Almost everyone has had the experience of staying in a hotel room and then having some difficulty falling asleep. In fact, there is a phenomenon called the “first night effect” which has been studied in persons sleeping for the first time in new environments. However, some minor difficulty falling asleep in a new place due to nervousness or anxiety is normal and does not mean that the results of the sleep study will be invalid. Not having your completely usual sleep such as you have at home still allows, in most cases, for a sleep disorder, if present, to be recognized and treated.
One important note, however, is that if you are having difficulty falling asleep because the recording devices are causing you discomfort, be sure to call the technician so the monitoring devices can be adjusted. This does not mean that the sensors can be removed since they all record important information for diagnosing your sleep problem. However, the technician can typically make adjustments for greater comfort so that you can sleep.
You may be surprised at how well you sleep under the conditions of the sleep study. The majority of patients usually do not have as much difficulty sleeping as they anticipate, and almost everyone sleeps enough during their study to make an accurate diagnosis. In fact, it is not unusual for patients to report that the quality of their sleep is even better during their study than it is at home. If your sleep problem has become debilitating, you may feel relieved that the source of your sleep problem is finally being directly examined with specialized testing, thus decreasing your concern about not sleeping. Sleeping medications are typically not provided by the technicians on the night of study, but in some circumstances the use of medications will be discussed with you by the sleep specialist prior to your study.
Most patients spend one or sometimes two nights in the Sleep Center and in some cases a series of daytime nap tests called the Multiple Sleep Latency Test, referred to as the MSLT, may be performed during the day following the overnight study. In addition, depending upon the results a “split night” study may be performed for further evaluation of sleep apnea (stopping breathing during sleep). However, this will be discussed with you in advance of your study.
Probably the single most important factor in allowing yourself to fall asleep during your evaluation is to keep a positive mindset and focus on the benefits that you will obtain as the result of the information which is being collected. Remember that the results will provide you with detailed and important information about the cause of your trouble with sleep which will, in turn, lead to potentially effective treatment. If you feel as though you are having trouble falling asleep, try thinking about these positive benefits and relax your body with deep breathing and muscle relaxation to encourage sleep.
Finally, remember that the technical staff can hear and see you at all times during the night should you have any difficulty or concerns. In most Centers, all you have to do is speak and the technician will enter the bedroom to help you.