Story by Mimi Greenwood Knight
If you’re taking the time to read this article, you may already suspect you have a sleep disorder. A sleep study performed at a sleep disorder clinic can help you determine whether your problem is sleep apnea or even other sleep disorders that arise in conjunction with sleep apnea, such as narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, or others. A sleep study can also give your doctor valuable information to help determine a course of treatment. Sleep testing involves sleeping for a night at the sleep center, while a device called a polysomnograph records your sleep, including how long it takes you to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep throughout the night.
Your primary care physician is a good place to begin looking for recommendations. Before you approach your PCP with your sleep concerns, keep a sleep journal for a few weeks or months. Record what time you go to bed each night, how long and how well you slept, if you woke during the night and for how long, if you were stressed that day, what foods you ate, whether you consumed alcohol or caffeine that day, and how much and at what time. Also document any steps you’ve taken to improve your quantity and quality of sleep. Now you can ask your doctor to recommend the best sleep clinic for you.
Check to see which local sleep clinics are covered by your insurance. A sleep study can be expensive, and if it’s done over two nights, expect the cost to double. Most clinics will check whether they’re in network with your insurance before scheduling your appointment. But it’s a good idea to double-check for yourself. Once you have a choice of possible clinics, ask friends and acquaintances whether they’ve had first-hand experience with any of them.
Investigate the clinic’s website to ensure there’s a board-certified sleep doctor and a registered polysomnographic technologist to monitor you throughout the night. With over 80 recognized sleep disorders, it’s important to have experienced specialists to accurately diagnose your condition.
Any clinic you consider should be accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). An AASM-accredited facility is one that follows specific provisions of quality diagnostic services, long-term management of patients, and quality assurances. You want a clinic that emphasizes patient education, so you not only understand your recommended treatment but the reasoning behind it, as well as how to properly maintain your equipment and when items need to be replaced. The clinics should steer you toward informative blogs, free educational e-books, and other patient resources.
Contact the clinic and ask about follow-up monitoring. Do they offer wireless monitoring, allowing technicians to remotely observe your CPAP devices to check for usage rates, leakage, and adjust pressure settings when necessary? Do they offer in-home sleep testing as well? A successful sleep study can be your first step toward diagnosing your sleep problem and finally obtaining that elusive good-night’s sleep. And a good study begins with finding the right clinic.