Focus on sleep studies Focus on sleep studies

Focus on sleep studies

WITH YOUR WORLD 2 August, 2017 Isabel Vallejo


These diagnostic studies are used on special cases. They help specialists find the right treatment for patients.

Medical Advisor María Eugenia Toro
Director of the Sleep Program at the Neurological Institute of Colombia (Indec, Spanish acronym).

A sleep study is generally conducted with patients who may have sleep apnea, movement disorders that occur during sleep, and parasomnias such as REM sleep behavior disorder. With insomnia, the most common disorder, sleep studies are usually not required.

Referrals for this study are issued by specialists after the patient is questioned about their situation and, depending on the case, after the person who sleeps with the patient gives an account of the patient’s sleep history. With this data, an overview of the most adequate treatment options is made, which can include medications, changing personal habits, alternative medicine and therapy. “This study is a diagnostic aid and is supplementary to other treatment. It measures your heart rate, your breathing, when you wake up, any abnormal movements, and explores whether your condition is related to organ function, among other issues,” explains María Eugenia Toro from Indec. Ver también Getting replenishing sleep helps prevent heart and brain disease

The two most common studies that are conducted are lab studies (a nocturnal polysomnography) and outpatient testing (respiratory polygraphy), both measure physical variables such as the air flow in and out of the lungs when the patient breathes, oxygen levels in the blood, the position of the body, and the patient’s respiratory and cardiac distress and frequency. The following explain the differences between these two methods.

Nocturnal polysomnography

Optimally, this study is conducted in a room similar to that of a hotel. It registers sleep cycles and phases through cables that are placed on the patient’s head (electroencephalography) and helps determine if patients wake up or have fragmented sleep. During the study, the patient’s sleep is observed and it can also be recorded.

12 hours is how long the lab study or “nocturnal polysomnography” can take.

Respiratory polygraphy

This outpatient study is less complex and can be conducted at home. It does not determine what phase of sleep the individual is in, but it does establish how many breathing pauses occur each hour as well as the patient’s oxygen saturation. Experts expect that once other sensors that provide more information are added, this exam could become the sleep study of the future.

10 years is the average number of years that the outpatient or “at home” study has been on the rise, which focuses on diagnosing severe sleep apnea.

Sleep is essential

Human beings experience two phases when they sleep. The function of deep sleep (not REM) is to repair our tissues; it is also the phase in which our growth hormones are activated. During the second phase (REM), brain functions are improved such as our memory.

Change of pace

  • The modern and fast-paced lifestyles of today that come with greater levels of stress are making sleep disorders more common.
  • Eating habits, work routines, the time spent using technology and voluntary sleep deprivation lead to changes in our sleeping patterns.
  • If poor sleep is making you experience long workdays, feel constantly irritable and have poor relationships, it is key to adopt proper sleep hygiene and get support before it is too late.
  • Your physician will decide whether a sleep study is necessary.