All about sleep studies

Sleep studies can be done in the patient’s home, hospital or at a sleep clinic. Either way, you will need to give your patient a referral or prescription for them to pass on to the sleep study provider.

During a sleep study, your patient’s breathing, body movements and responses during the night are monitored to see if he or she has a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

Below is some information you can pass on to your patients about what happens during a sleep study.

In a hospital or clinic

In a clinic, hospital or sleep lab, clinical staff will place sensors on your patient’s body to monitor their sleep.

Sensors are placed:

  • On the chest to monitor heart activity
  • Close to the eyelids to measure eye movements that help indicate if the patient is in REM or non-REM sleep
  • On the head to measure electrical signals from the brain
  • On the legs to assess muscle activity

Patients will also be fitted with:

  • A nasal cannula to monitor breathing
  • An oximeter on their finger to record oxygen levels
  • Bands around their chest and stomach to measure breathing effort

With your patient’s permission, staff may also request to film the sleep study to gain more insights into the patient’s sleeping behavior.

During this type of study, your patient will be required to stay overnight at the facility, so they should take everything needed for his/her usual sleeping routine, including pajamas and toiletries.

At home

There are two types of setups for a home sleep study:

  1. A home setup is similar to that in a clinic, hospital or sleep lab — with the added comfort and convenience of being in the patient’s own home. Prior to the sleep study night, a sleep clinician will have shown your patients how to apply the sensors and monitors, and how to use the recording device during the night.

    The night of the sleep test, the patient simply follow a normal evening routine and get ready for sleep, attach everything as shown, and start the recording. In the morning, the patient removes everything as shown and returns the recording device to the clinic, hospital or sleep lab.
  2. A simpler home setup can be performed using ResMed’s ApneaLink™ Air, a compact, lightweight and easy-to-use home sleep testing device. The ApneaLink Air is capable of recording up to five channels of information, including respiratory effort, pulse, oxygen saturation, nasal flow and snoring.

What do sleep studies measure?

Among other things, the sleep study will indicate the severity of your patient’s condition, which is classified according to an apnea/hypopnea index (AHI).

Measured during the sleep study, AHI refers to the number of apneas and hypopneas your patient has per hour.

Severity AHI (per hour)
Normal <5
Mild 5 to <15
Moderate 15 to <30
Severe 30+

In addition to the patient’s AHI, the diagnosis will take into account the patient’s oxygen desaturation and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Once you receive your patient’s sleep study results, you can then talk to him or her about the condition (if it’s present), its severity, its possible health effects and treatment options.

Reimbursement

Medicare covers the cost of some diagnostic sleep studies, but there may be a gap payment. It’s best that your patient checks with his or her clinic and/or health insurance provider. Go to http://www.medicare.gov/coverage/sleep-study.html for more information.