In today’s fast-paced society, almost everyone can relate to not getting enough sleep. However, for some individuals, the lack of sleep is a result of internal issues, such as insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder or restless legs syndrome, rather than external distractions, such as staying up too late or drinking caffeine before bed. For those who can’t seem to get enough sleep despite different tactics and strategies, your doctor may suggest you undergo a sleep study, also known as polysomnography. While most people have heard of sleep studies, the larger percent of the population is unaware of what the different types are and what it does.

To put it simply, a sleep study is a non-invasive exam that allows doctors to monitor what happens in the body and brain overnight while sleeping. Patients typically go to a sleep lab located within a hospital or center and are hooked up to EEG monitors that detect an individual’s REM and non-REM cycles and sleep stages in hopes to identify disruptors of sleep. During the study, various factors such as eye movements, blood oxygen levels, heart and breathing rates, snoring, and body movements, are measured. Although all sleep studies aim to diagnose possible sleep disruptions and sleep disorders, different types of sleep studies are used for different reasons.

What are different types of sleep study?

  • CPAP Titration – Commonly used to manage sleep-related breathing disorders, such as hypoventilation, central sleep apnea, and obstructive sleep apnea. Once diagnosed with one of the previously mentioned disorders, patients will undergo a CPAP study to determine treatment. During the study, patients are fitted with a nasal mask that is connected to a small pressure generating device. CPAP’s monitor a patient’s breathing, heart rate, oxygen levels, brain waves, and arm and leg movements. This sleep study is usually utilized for patients who have been diagnosed with a sleep breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Polysomnogram (PSG) – This overnight study is used when doctors suspect a sleep disorder that requires a diagnosis in order to start treatment. A PSG focuses on a patient’s sleep cycles and stages in which equipment is used to monitor brain, breathing and muscle activity. This type of study is typically used for patients who may have a disorder where they experience repeated events of apnea or airway obstruction during sleep.
  • Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) – This study is a full-day (24 hour) of tests consisting of five naps scheduled two hours apart. Sensors placed on the patients face, head and chin to monitor when they are awake and when they’re in REM sleep. This type of sleep study focuses on patients who may have idiopathic hypersomnia or narcolepsy disorders.