Some of these people are lucky enough to sleep with a concerned partner who tells them that they are holding their breath throughout the night, then gasping for air, only to repeat this stage of “sleep” over and over again.
If a person goes to a doctor and describes those symptoms, an overnight sleep apnea study will undoubtedly be ordered. Medically, this sleep apnea study is called a Polysomnogram, or PSG.
During a sleep apnea study, you will first be escorted to a bedroom at bedtime. The bedroom will be nicely equipped with a comfortable bed, will be cool enough for you to sleep and will have clean sheets, pillows and covers arranged according to your sleeping preferences.
There are various devices that will be hooked up to you during the sleep apnea study. Most people are not even concerned about these, since they are not painful nor are there any needles involved.
One of the devices will measure your brain waves. This is called an electroencephalogram (EEG). Another device will measure your eye and chin movements, and this is referred to as an electroculogram (EOG). Both of these machines will be measuring your different stages of sleep, such as when you enter into REM sleep. Also, you will be hooked to an electrocardiogram (EKG). An EKG measures your heart rate and the rhythm of your heart. You will have chest bands around your chest in order to measure the breathing movements you may make.
Other monitors are used to measure the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood. There is another device that records any leg movements, and still another, called a nasal airflow sensor that measures the amount of air passing in and out of your nostrils.
All of these devices are necessary so that a true picture of your sleep pattern is recorded and can be evaluated. Chances are you are not even aware of the various times you awaken gasping for breath, or when your legs kick out or even when you are holding your breath for incredible lengths of time. All of these devices will record that and much more with the use of computers, recorders and video machines.
Occasionally during a test, the monitor will indicate that you are definitely suffering from sleep apnea and a CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine may be introduced. Once your test is over, you will be awakened and will have all of these devices removed. Most of the sensors are held by a tiny amount of glue that has been placed on the small electrodes before being attached to your face and scalp. The glue is extremely easy to remove. You then can shower and dress and go to work or back home.
There are one and two night studies depending on the clinic and the results of the test from the first night. So, do not be alarmed if an additional night is required.
A sleep apnea study may be inconvenient since your are not sleeping in your own bed, but most clinics make it as comfortable as possible. The test itself is painless and could be the most important night of sleep in your life!