Sleep Tests and Their Outcomes

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So you think you have a sleep disorder? Here’s a quick primer on some of the common sleep tests.

The most common types of sleep disorders are snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, parasomnias -sleep walking/talking, grinding of teeth (bruxism), nightmares, Restless legs syndrome, Periodic Leg Movement Disorder and Insomnia. Your physician may request a sleep test if indicated to aid in the diagnosis. A sleep test – polysomnogram is a study which monitors multiple physiological variables utilizing non-invasive methods to record the signals and responses sent from the brain to the body and vice-versa.

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Examples of some of the common procedures performed during a sleep test are an EEG for brain activity, EOG for eye movements, EMG for muscular activities, and ECG for heart activity. Sleep studies to monitor respiratory functions can be done either in a sleep lab under supervision of a technician or at the patient’s home-unattended. The data collected during these tests is collated by sleep technologists and analysed by doctors who then determine the identify the disorder, quantify the severity and accordingly design the treatment plan


The purpose of sleep test is to;

  • diagnose the disorder and its severity i.e. whether it is due to respiratory issues, leg jerks or others
  • assess treatment efficacy
  • monitor the progress of the patient

Some of the common sleep tests are Polysomnogram (PSG), Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MLST), CPAP, Split Night Study, and Maintenance of Wakefulness (MWT). Depending on the type of disorder, doctors usually advise a specific sleep test for example;

  • The Nocturnal Polysomnogram –
    • Diagnostic Study only
    • Titration Study with CPAP/Pap Devices performed after diagnostic study night
    • Split-Night Study in which both the diagnostic and titration part are performed during a single night study
  • The MSLT is recommended for people who suffer from excessive daytime drowsiness. In this test the patient is kept in a quiet room or environment. Sleep doctors then monitor and record how soon the person falls asleep as well as the exact stage of sleep the patient enters during the day in such an environment. This study also helps in diagnosing other more severe daytime sleep disorders like narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia.
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  • The MWT is also a test conducted in sleep labs however its purpose is to measure alertness of a patient. The sleep lab provides a relaxing and mundane environment to check the patient’s ability to stay awake and alert. This test should be mandatory for certain jobs like pilots and long-distance truckers as their job is considered high risk as it involves public safety.

Sleep disorder not only disrupts the life of the victim but also of their partner and loved ones. There is increasing awareness of sleep health risk factors and the impact on physical quality of life, co-morbidities and consequences of untreated sleep disorders.

Increasingly individuals as well as the medical fraternity have realized the significance of sleep disorders. Sleep tests aid in diagnosis and help improve sleep quality.



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