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If the doctor suspects you might have a sleep disorder, he or she may send you to a sleep lab to have an overnight evaluation. Sometimes, take-home tests are possible.
Most sleep labs will have the patient arrive at the sleep clinic a few hours before their normal bedtime. Emilie, a team member on the site who has had a sleep study before, was told to shampoo her hair well before she came. This is so that the scalp is clean, and ready to have electrodes placed upon it. The sensors are attatched to the patient's scalp; near the eyes, nose, and chin; and on the chest and legs. It takes about an hour to prepare the patient and the equipment for the test .
The patient should bring toiletries and pajamas. If wanted, patients can also bring pillows, reading material, or other personal items to make them feel more at home. The rooms are very comfortable, and usually have a TV and/or radio . Once "hooked-up" for the test, the patient is allowed to relax before going to bed.
During the night, the technicians are there to make sure everything runs smoothly. The labs have an intercom system so that you can communicate with the technician if needed. The wires are long enough, and stretch over to a large box, usually on a bedstand . They are easy to disconnect and reconnect if the patient has to get back up to go to the bathroom. There is a video monitor in the room that allows the technicians to take notice of any unusual sleep behaviors.
Often, patients will be asked to stay at the clinic during the day for additional testing, such as the MSLT . For this, some of the probes are removed in the morning, when the patient wakes up. Then, during the day, the technician has the patient stay awake for certain lengths of time and then take short-duration naps when requested. The purpose of this test is to find out how long it takes one to fall asleep as a measure of daytime sleepiness.
"The beds," is the most common complaint of patients, according to the Bayview technicians. Some are bothered by the wires behind their ears or by the masks. Yet most patients sleep better than they thought they would at a sleep lab because it is quieter than in their homes. (1)
(1) Nadeaux, Carol, and Lawrence Allen. Interview of sleep lab technicians by Emlie Sutterlin. Baltimore, MD, visit to the Bayview Sleep Disorders Center, Johns Hopkins University, Feb. 5, 1999.[an error occurred while processing this directive]