7 Tips For A Successful Sleep Study

This guest post was written by Nick, a reader who has undergone 2 sleep studies. 

image of a man in a sleep lab

A sleep study can be an effective way to diagnose some serious sleep disorders. But people often worry that their sleep problem just won’t show up in the sleep center.

It’s an understandably concern because they take place in an unfamiliar bed that’s not in your home. And there’s all manner of monitoring equipment hooked up to your body.

You’re also aware – by way of a video camera pointed at your bed – that someone is watching you sleep.

I’ve undergone two sleep studies in my lifetime. The first occurred when I was unable to fall asleep before around 2 a.m. And I went for the second sleep study to look at my snoring and sleep apnea.

In both experiences, I think I did some things which may have lowered their effectiveness. So if you’re considering a sleep study, here’s my advice to give yourself the best chance of a successful outcome.

1. Wear yourself out

You probably won’t have to be at the sleep study facility until late in the evening, so you have the opportunity to have a full day of activities beforehand. Make the most of it!

Exercise, take a day trip, play with your kids, take your dog for a long walk – do as much physical activity as you can. Stimulate your mind as well, be it with games, puzzles, work, organizational activities, etc.

Just make sure you’re working your mental and physical muscles. This will make it much easier to sleep when you get to the facility.

2. Take the next day off

One of the worst ways to keep yourself from sleeping is stressing out about not being able to complete tomorrow’s tasks because you didn’t get enough sleep.

The first time I had a sleep study done, I had another doctor’s appointment the next morning at 8 a.m. and I went to the study stressed out about how long it would take me to get up, get ready, and make the other appointment on time.

The second study, I had to work the next morning in a job I’d only had for about three weeks. I stressed out about how long I’d need to get there and what would happen if I was too tired to work effectively. Bad idea.

Either take the next day off from work or simply schedule the study on a night where you have no important commitments the next morning.

3. Bring your home comforts

The information pack you get for the study will recommend that you bring a favorite pillow or blanket; I didn’t do either of those things and wish I had.

Your bedroom for the evening might be the equivalent of a moderate hotel room or college dormitory, probably with very basic furnishings and decoration.

So bring your pillows and blankets. Bring photos of your family. Bring a white noise machine, your phone or music player, tablet or anything else that will remind you of home and let you add that level of comfort.

4. 20 questions

The sleep facility staff see lots of patients every day, and even the best of them tend to get locked into a routine. So don’t be shy – ask every question that pops into your head about the facility, the procedure and the equipment being used.

If something doesn’t feel right, bring it up. If something isn’t comfortable, let them know.

Your insurance company might ultimately be the one footing the bill, but you’re the one paying the premiums. For the duration of the night, these staff members are working for you – be satisfied with what’s going on.

5. Mental toughness

I vividly remember my first sleep study as the technician hooked me up with the test equipment: diodes on my chest; an oxygen meter on my finger; bands around my stomach; sensors on my eyelids and attached to my scalp with an odd shampoo/glue mixture; and a large monitor that I was to wear on a strap around my neck as I slept.

When I first caught sight of myself in the mirror, I looked like I was straight out of a science fiction movie. There’s absolutely nothing natural or comfortable about the monitoring equipment used in a sleep study. But knowing it’s coming can go a long way towards getting ready for it.

Think of all the unnatural positions you’ve slept in during your life – in a car, on an airplane, holding a sick child in the middle of the night. Our bodies are remarkable at their ability to adapt.

Once you’ve convinced yourself that these instruments are necessary parts of your environment, you can accept them and get to sleep.

6. Go to sleep when you’re ready

This was a big one for me in both of my sleep studies. During the time of the first study, I wasn’t going to bed until or 2 or 3 a.m., but was told to go to sleep at 10 p.m.

I lay in the bed not sleeping and getting more and more agitated for hours before finally getting maybe three hours of sleep.

The second time around they told me the same thing, and added that when I had been asleep for a while, they were going to come put a CPAP mask on me to see how I did with it.

I responded that if anyone tried to put a mask on my face while I was sleeping, I might wake up in a very bad mood. And as a result, I stayed up watching TV until about 1:30 a.m. and then slept restlessly for about four hours.

Don’t stray from your routine if it means going to bed well before you naturally would do. If you watch a couple of late night talk shows before you hit the hay, do it here too. If you read until midnight, read until midnight. A real representation of your sleep will present a true diagnosis.

7. Ask about a home study

In the past few years, some doctors and facilities have begun offering a device that allows patients to undertake a sleep study in their own home.

It’s not used for every suspected sleep disorder, but it might be good to ask if it can be used in your case. The home device is far less restrictive, and allows for a more realistic study of a typical night’s sleep, since it’s done in your home and in your bed.

Sleep studies can be sources of great stress if you let them be. But proper preparation and the right attitude going in can make it much less stressful.

And then the medical professionals can hopefully glean all the necessary information that will allow doctors to help you sleep easier and healthier for all the nights to come.

44 CommentsLeave a comment

  • If I was allowed to bring my own pillow that would help but we are not allowed to bring any bedding from home.
    You have television in your sleep lab?

    • Hi Susan
      I understand – I feel the same about my own pillows when I travel. You can always request one that has a similar thickness. Some labs do have televisions – it’s worth asking.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • The sleep lab I’m going to *requires* “lights out” by & going to sleep *”at 11pm*”! I’m a night owl, & also don’t feel comfortable without some light on & also, the tv on! I just can’t sleep *without* it on! It feels SO abnormal to me! Plus they told me to wake up because of this extra early the morning before! I wanted to try to sleep w/o the tv & get to sleep early the night before, but now I’m up, awake, fretting over & dreading my sleep study tomorrow! There has to be a better way! (& no, home sleep-study monitors aren’t great. My friend’s home test found nothing, but their test a few months later proved otherwise!) Prepare your to-go bag at least 2 days before so you’re not late the night of the test, w/ last minute, unforeseen details!
    God Bless you all!

    • Hi there
      Sorry to hear you’ve had a stressful lead up to the sleep study. I hope it goes well though!
      Regards
      Ethan

    • I can’t imagine a sleep lab that tells you you have to go to bed by 11 p.m. That’s crazy. I have DSPD which I only know because my sleep specialist told me so–sleep labs should be prepared for conditions like this. Having DSPD means I go to sleep late and wake up late. That’s the REASON I went to a sleep specialist. If there’s a way to go to another lab, please try! My lab has a late-sleeper night each week, so people with that type of disorder or who just have a late schedule can get more accurate information from the study. Otherwise maybe you could suggest that they do something similar to my lab? It’s so expensive; it’s a shame that they aren’t doing what they can to do an accurate study

  • Hi Ethan,
    I just came across your tips and just wanted to let you know that these are very helpful! My Hub is taking a study very soon, and he just can’t get to sleep until late, so i will share what you’ve written and hopefully, it will make it be a good night with good readings. Thank you so much for your tips!
    Christy in Oregon

    • Hi Christy
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad the article was useful. Tell him not to worry too much about the sleep study though and whether there will be good readings or not. The advice in the article might help, but really, it’s good to get as natural a night as possible – even if that means not sleeping well.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Thank you for this article I’ve made notes of all the useful tips to prepare me for when I go for my sleep study. My question I’m wondering about is, what if I don’t sleep at all during my study? Will they be able to tell me anything, or will they book me again and again until I do sleep? I suffer bad sleeplessness that some nights I’m up all night with absolutely no sleep at all and i can even be up even for the next night as well with maybe some small dozing off happening. Obviously, I can’t predict when those sleepless nights are for so now I’m afraid I’ll go there and have one of my brutal all-nighters during it all for nothing.

    • Hi Chelsey
      I’m glad the article was useful. Perhaps this is a question to ask the specific center. They won’t keep asking you to come back, but some do have more than one night because the first night can sometimes not give the results they are looking for. But even if you have a sleepless night, they should be able to get some information about why that was.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am thinking about doing a sleep study to test for sleep apnea, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about going to bed at your normal hours during the test. I’ll be sure to do this so I don’t misrepresent my actual sleep pattern and habits.

    • Hi Derek
      Thanks for your comment, and you’re welcome! I hope the study proves to be useful.
      Regards
      Ethan

    • Hi Michelle
      Thanks for your comment. From just that brief description, I’d strongly recommend that he speaks to his doctor to ask what they think, and possibly have a sleep study done to find out if it is apnea.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Going for my 2nd. Sleep study soon. 1st one was strange I’m not the type 2 sleep good in strange beds so Thank you for your tips and I will be taking a radio and fan.

    • Hi Mary Lou
      Thanks for your comment. I’m the same – it’s never easy for me to sleep in a new bed. It’s not ideal when going in for a sleep study! I’d ask in advance what you can take with you just to be sure. I hope it goes well and you get something useful out of it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I just did my first sleep study at home last night. Did not sleep at all. Maybe dosed off, but the equipment is truly annoying and uncomfortable. I wonder if they’ll be able to get any results at all. I wish had read this beforehand.

  • I had a home study and was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. I have to do a sleep study on July 20, 2017. Your article helped me get prepared. Hopefully I will sleep and get the right thing that will help my sleep apnea.

    • Hi Michele
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad the article was useful for you. I’m sure your sleep will improve now you’re receiving help and treatment for the sleep apnea.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I take my sleep study this week, I saw your tips. I was wondering if I can take something to help in sleeping like something like ZzzQuil

  • I am going in for my 4th, i think, sleep study. Unfortunately the kind i need can’t be done from home but i have been at the facility some years back, it was really nice. Nice article, with helpful reminders.

  • I’m going at 8 pm tonight, after reading this I feel like someone took an elephant off my back lol. Thank you so much!!

    • Hi Troy
      Thanks for your comment, and it’s great to hear you found the article useful. I hope the sleep study is helpful and you get some answers. If you have a moment in the future to pop back and describe your experience, I’m sure other readers would be very grateful.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I’m going for my first sleep study in a week. Are we allowed to take snacks, drinks, etc in a little cooler or bag?

    • Hi Tammy
      Thanks for your comment. That’s something you should check in advance with the particular clinic you’re going to visit. But they will definitely provide you with food and drink for the overnight study.
      All the best with it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • My husband is looking at having a sleep apnea test done. He’s a little nervous about it, but I think these tips will really help. As you said, bringing home comforts can be a great way to feel more comfortable. I will be sure to share this with my husband. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great post! Wearing yourself out is such a simple but effective method. I think that we are in a society where sitting all day is the norm so of course sleep is harder to come by. Thanks for sharing!

  • My husband thinks he might have sleep apnea and he’s decided to go to a sleep study to find out. I really appreciate you sharing your tip about wearing yourself out so you are prepared for the sleep study. This would probably make going to sleep easier and allow him to find exactly what is wrong with him during the study. Thanks for the helpful tips!

  • I really liked your idea to wear yourself out by playing games, exercising, and doing things that will make you tired. I have tried that before when I knew I needed to get to bed fast, and I believe it worked!

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