If your doctor suggests you undergo a sleep study, or polysomnography, you may be wondering what is involved in this test and what to expect. Sleep studies help doctors diagnose sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, insomnia, and nighttime behaviors like sleepwalking and REM sleep behavior disorder. Often these disorders cannot be identified with a normal office visit—your doctor needs to gather more conclusive evidence while you’re asleep.
A sleep study is a non-invasive, overnight exam that allows doctors to monitor you while you sleep to see what’s happening in your brain and body. For this test, you will go to a sleep lab that is set up for overnight stays—usually in a hospital or sleep center. While you sleep, an EEG monitors your sleep stages and the cycles of REM and nonREM or NREM sleep you go through during the night, to identify possible disruptions in the pattern of your sleep. A sleep study will also measure things such as eye movements, oxygen levels in your blood (through a sensor—there are no needles involved), heart and breathing rates, snoring, and body movements.
Sleep studies collect data about what is happening in a person’s body during sleep. Different types of sleep studies are available depending on one’s symptoms and the sleep disorders that may be present.
A sleep study is used to diagnose many sleep disorders, including:
Sleep studies are a vital diagnostic tool for many sleep disorders, but they aren’t necessary in all cases. A doctor can prescribe a sleep study depending on a person’s symptoms and overall health.
Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing sleep issues or daytime symptoms such as fatigue, drowsiness, depression, or difficulty concentrating. Patients with obesity with sleep issues should be screened for sleep apnea. Your doctor can help you determine whether a sleep study is right for you.
If you have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder and your symptoms are not improving with treatment, a follow-up sleep study can help your doctor determine the next steps for your care.
The cost of a sleep study is difficult to estimate. It depends on the type of testing being used and what a facility charges. Small clinics typically charge less compared to big hospital systems. It’s important to speak directly with the clinic administering your sleep study for the most accurate information.
The costs you are responsible for depends on what your insurance covers. Contact your insurance provider to learn about sleep study coverage provided by your plan.
If your doctor suggests a sleep study for you, but your insurance provider denies coverage for the test, it could help to ask about appealing the denial of coverage. This typically involves providing documentation as to why the test is medically necessary. Your doctor can help you put together the paperwork required to file an appeal.