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Top Reasons to Have a Sleep Study (Test)

Maybe you had a string of nights when you couldn’t fall asleep. Or:

A friend may have recommended that you have a sleep study.

A loved one may have complained about your snoring or joked about your antics while asleep.

Or you awakened recently not feeling well rested and wondered why.

Do you need a sleep study?

There are many sleep tests, including the most common one, the overnight polysomnogram, as well as the home sleep apnea test (HSAT), the MWT (maintenance of wakefulness test), the MSLT (multiple sleep latency test), or titration studies related to PAP therapy. They can all get to the bottom of your concerns.

Here are some reasons to consider inquiring into a sleep study.

You have sleep problems

It seems obvious, but not everybody thinks that sleep struggles are worth checking out with their doctor. Not true! Here are some good reasons to inquire into the possibility of a sleep study:

  • You struggle to fall asleep or to stay asleep, or you find yourself waking up too early. Often, people with symptoms of insomnia don’t need an overnight sleep test, but sometimes their symptoms might suggest they need a test to rule out other sleep disorders, which can have insomnia -like symptoms.

  • You regularly wake up all night to use the restroom, but you don’t have a prostate or bladder problem. This could actually be a sign of sleep apnea.

  • You have moments of sleep paralysis right before or after you fall asleepthat concern you; you may also hear or see unusual things before or after sleep which give you pause.

  • You encounter recurring nightmares that make it difficult for you to want to go to bed at night. You may even choose to medicate yourself in order to prevent the nightmares from happening.

You are tired all the time

We are meant to sleep at night and to remain alert all day. However, daytime sleepiness can indicate an underlying sleep disorder even if you think you’ve slept solid the night before. Here are some scenarios to consider:

  • You slept more than 10 hours last night, and when you woke up, you were still tired.

  • You need a nap every afternoon even after drinking several cups of coffee in the morning.

  • Your need to sleep during the day is irresistible; you may even feel like you are having sleep “attacks.”

  • You have a hard time summoning the energy to do the ordinary taskson your daily To Do List.

  • You easily fall asleep or feel excessively sleepy during quiet, passive periods during the day, such as while watching TV, getting a haircut, or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

You need a follow-up sleep study

People with sleep disorders need to be vigilant about their therapy and may need to have further tests for the following reasons:

  • You’ve already been diagnosed with a sleep disorder (such as narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, or shift work disorder), but your situation has changed (i.e., you’ve gained or lost weight, your lifestyle has significantly changed, your therapy doesn’t seem to help anymore).

  • You were recently diagnosed with sleep apnea but you need to go in for a second CPAP titration study to determine settings for positive airway pressure therapy.

  • You need to get new PAP therapy equipment and your insurance company requires a new study.

You have chronic health problems

Both sleeplessness and fatigue are symptomatic of many chronic health problems; we often forget that we can have more than one health problem causing our symptoms. Consider these situations:

  • You have been diagnosed with a chronic illness (such as lupus, Lyme disease, or Parkinsonism). If, after initiating treatment for your condition, you still struggle with sleeplessness at night or fatigue during the day, you may wish to rule out (or rule in) a separate, “comorbid” sleep disorder.

  • You have an unexplained rise in blood pressure ( hypertension ). Undetected obstructive sleep apnea could be the culprit.

  • You have morning headaches. They may seem innocuous, but having headaches every morning is not considered normal. Allowing them to go unaddressed means you might be ignoring a serious underlying health condition. It could be a sleep disorder or something else. Don’t ignore these kinds of warning signs.

  • You are obese and you snore loudly. Not all people with obstructive sleep apnea are obese, but obesity lends itself to both snoring and major upper airway resistance. Together these two symptoms make a strong case for the likelihoodof obstructive sleep apnea.

  • You are scheduled for a major surgical procedure and your physician requires a sleep study to determine your ability to breathe without disruption during the operation. This is a safety precaution and useful for catching an undetected sleep breathing disorder, which could also be partly to blame for any current health problems you may have.

  • You have negative changes in cardiovascular function that aren’t easily explained, such as newly discovered arrhythmias or a recent diagnosis of heartdisease. Sleep apnea or other sleep disorders that result in sleep deprivation can lead to problems with thecardiac and vascular systems over time.

  • You are obese and have recently been diagnosed with diabetes. There’s a link between diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea.

  • You have had a few fender benders or other accidents due to inattentiveness. Poor sleep at night can result in poor daytime functioning; focus, attention, vigilance, reactivity, and alertness can be impaired, leading to seemingly harmless moments of “klutziness” as well as serious concerns about your ability to drive, do delicate work, or operate machinery

You have mental health concerns

The link between mood changes and poor sleep is not incidental. Sleep deprivation and mood disorders often have a two-way relationship: poor sleep can lead to dysfunctional mood or mental illness, or mood disorders or mental illness can lead to dysfunctional sleep.

  • You have noticed a change in your moods that you can’t seem to explain otherwise. Sleep deprivation and sleep debt (the accumulation of lost sleep) can lead to neurochemical imbalances that affect mood.

  • You have ongoing problems with anxiety or depression which medication and therapy don’t seem to relieve. An underlying sleep disorder could be exacerbating your condition; treating it could improve your mental health as well.

  • You are concerned about learning or memory issues. Poor sleep can have a negative impact on our ability to learn or to retain memories.

  • You have suicidal thoughts from time to time. Insomnia or sleep deprivation and suicide are, unfortunately, linked.

Your loved ones want you to have a sleep test

When we are sleeping, it’s difficult for us to know if we have sleep disorders. However, our bed partners and family members can be credible witnesses who shouldn’t be ignored.

  • You snore so loudly that all of your loved ones complain or joke about it. Snoring is no joke, and it could be ruining your bed partner’s sleep as well.

  • Your bed partner is concerned about the way you breathe while sleeping, because you have long pauses inbreathing or struggle to catch your breath during the night.

  • You wake up with the sheets askew or completely off the bed, and you’re told you move around quite actively in bed all night. You may even appear to be acting out dreams , kicking your bed partner, or getting up and walking around while still asleep.

  • Your loved ones have taken audio or video recordings of your sleep behaviors because they want you to see what they see.

Do you need a sleep study?

Having an overnight sleep study to rule out sleep disorders (or to identify them) is a proactive and, sometimes, preventive measure you can take to ensure your best personal health. It is also a unique experience which reveals a great deal of information about your current health; the data gathered can be very useful for addressing preexisting, but undiagnosed, sleep health problems while also identifying other conditions you may not have been aware of.

However, a sleep study (otherwise referred to as polysomnography ) is generally an expensive and elaborate test. It’s important to remember that only a physician can refer you to a sleep center for a sleep test. You cannot go to a sleep specialist directly and ask for one.

Doctors are also bound by requirements established by insurance payers (including Medicare and Medicaid), who set the “medical necessity” criteria for who can qualify for sleep studies and, if so, which kinds of tests. They impose such rules to reduce healthcare costs and prevent unnecessary testing.

Most primary care physicians and other healthcare providers and specialists, including dentists, are trained to listen to concerns about sleep. They understand that sleep health concerns can aggravate or indicate the presence of other major health problems. Often, treating a sleep disorder can bring relief for other conditions.

Suffice it to say, if your doctor thinks you need to have a sleep study, and your insurance provider clears your qualifications, then you need a sleep study. Not only is it a worthwhile test, but it could lead the way to a vastly improved qualify of life not only for you, but for your loved ones as well.

Further Reading

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