What is a Sleep Study? bookmark icon

The Test You Sleep Through

Woman Sleeping without Snoring Husband


A "sleep study" is a general term to describe the medical testing used to diagnose sleep disorders.  In fact, there are several different tests or combinations of tests that may be used, depending on the particular sleep disorders suspected.

The most frequently used test is called polysomnography.  This test is performed in one of our specially designed sleep rooms.  A qualified technologist will monitor and record several physiological readings, including brainwaves, muscle activity, heart rhythm, oxygen levels, air flow, and respiratory effort.  This test is usually performed overnight to preserve the normal sleeping schedule, but can be performed during the day for shift workers.

Registered Sleep Tech scoring

The recordings from the polysomnogram are then analyzed by a senior technologist, who "scores" the test.  "Scoring" a sleep study is the process of determining sleep staging, marking and measuring each abnormal event, and determining relationships between these events and sleep disruptions.  The scored data is then reviewed by a board-certified sleep specialist physician, who determines a diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.

Home Sleep Testing

For pre-qualified cases of suspected sleep apnea, portable units can be used to make an estimate of the problem using only basic parameters.  This test is self-administered by the patient after some instruction from a sleep technologist.  The device is then returned to the lab for analysis.  This type of testing has significant limitations and is not considered appropriate for all patients.  Recommendations for testing are made once symptoms and medical history information is reviewed.

CPAP Titration

For those diagnosed with sleep apnea, the doctor may recommend the use of a CPAP device.  The settings for CPAP devices vary from patient to patient, and the proper prescription must be determined while you sleep using a study called a CPAP Titration.  This study is essentially a polysomnography, but performed while the patient is utilizing CPAP.  This allows the technologist to observe the effects of various CPAP settings and determine the proper CPAP prescription to fully treat sleep apnea.  It also allows the patient to try CPAP therapy before committing to home use.


Another test used in the diagnosis of sleep disorders is the Multiple Sleep Latency Test, or MSLT.  The MSLT consists of a series of nap opportunities throughout the day.  It is useful in objectively documenting levels of sleepiness, as well as screening for organic sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy.

The Maintenance of Wakefulness Test, or MWT, is similar to the MSLT, but is used to document alertness.  For pilots, truck drivers, and others whose alertness affects the safety of the general public, an MWT may be required to pass their annual physical.

Which Test Do I Need?

Our experts can help identify which tests may be appropriate for you.  Contact Midwest Sleep Diagnostics to get started.


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