Your doctor has asked you to come to the sleep lab for a sleep study. You make the appointment, fill out all the paperwork and arrive for your study. Your technician introduces themselves and gives you a tour of the lab. You see where the technician sits and you think. Really what are they looking at?
Here is a small behind the scenes look at what the technician will be seeing during the night. It will also explain why there are so many wires and why it takes so long to attach them all.
There are three images that the technician will be looking at. The video of you, the electrical signals the wires are giving off and the signal from a CPAP machine if it is being used.
The video is used for several things.
The most complex image watched is the computer screen with the electrical impulses from your body. Although the screen can be set up differently depending on the type of study and the facility, all the items on the screen are the same. The first thing the technician will be watching are the wires from your head. Theses wires tell us when you are awake and when you are asleep. It will also tell what stage of sleep you are in. There are 4 stages of sleep that people cycle throughout the night.
On the face we monitor eye movements and chin movements. The eyes and chin help us to determine when you reach a stage of sleep known as REM, when you dream. The chin leads also allow us to know if you grind your teeth in your sleep. This problem can sometimes cause disruption of sleep.
We use several items to monitor your breathing.
We also monitor you heart and your oxygen levels. We use a clip on your finger that measures the oxygen by shining a red light through your finger. The amount of light the sensor reads is based on the amount of oxygen attached to your red blood cells. The heart rate it measure by two electrodes placed on the chest.
The final signal comes from the electrodes placed on the legs. Some people have muscle movements during the night, the leg leads will monitor for those movements.
As you can see the technician is quite busy during the night evaluation the signals and video they are viewing throughout the night. Their job is to make sure the signals are as clear as possible for the physician to read and to understand what is going on during the night so they can be of assistance to you, their patient, when needed.
I hope you will feel a little more comfortable when you visit the lab for your study.
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