Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Maria

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In-lab sleep study - Testing Process & Results

Testing Process

When you are ready to go to bed, the sleep technologist will attach sensors to your body. The sensors, which are glued or taped to you, monitor your body while you sleep. These sensors are painless. Make sure to tell the technologist if you are allergic or sensitive to any adhesives. The sensors measure your:

  • Brain waves- to help determine what stage of sleep your are in.
  • Chin muscle activity
  • Eye movements (to determine when you are in rapid eye movement sleep – REM or dream sleep)
  • Heart rate
  • Nasal airflow
  • Breathing effort from your chest and abdomen
  • Oxygen levels
  • snoring
  • Leg movements- leg muscle activity.
  • Other parameters depending upon your particular situation

Monitoring is done from a tech room. For your safety and convenience, technologists will be at hand to assist you through the night. All techs are thoroughly trained in basic life support (CPR).

The wires are long enough to let you move around and turn over in bed. At the start of the test, you will be asked to move your eyes, clench your teeth and move your legs. This will make sure that the sensors are working and that they are calibrated properly.

You are free to read or watch TV until it is time for you to try to go to sleep.  At this time lights will go off and a low-light video camera will allow the technologist to see you from a nearby monitoring room.   If a sensor comes loose the technologist will come in and re-attach the wires.  When you need to go to the bathroom during the night, the technologist will have to help you with the wires.

Many patients do not sleep as well as they would at home. This may be because of the sensors or the unfamiliar environment. This typically does not affect the results. Nearly everyone falls asleep during an in-lab study. In most cases, you do not need a full eight hours of sleep for the doctor to make a diagnosis. Occasionally, you may be prescribed medication to help you sleep during the in-lab sleep study.

In the morning the technologist will test and then remove the sensors. You will be asked to fill out a morning questionnaire that asks about the quality of your sleep and your experience in the sleep center. The in-lab study is complete once you are awake and the sensors have been removed.

For some patients suspected of obstructive sleep apnea, the sleep physician may recommend a home sleep test instead of an in-lab study. A home sleep test uses different equipment that you can set up yourself.

An in-lab sleep study is the way to ensure that you have the proper diagnosis for a sleep disorder.  If you think you may need a sleep study you should see one of the specialists at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Maria or your regular health care provider.

The Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Maria is a locally owned, fully accredited sleep medicine facility which has been serving the Santa Maria area since 1999.    Our providers offer extensive experience in the field of sleep medicine. Our facility is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.  The Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Maria is proud to operate the only  facility that is accredited in the Santa Maria area.    Dr. Wikholm board certified in otolaryngology as well as sleep medicine  and has years of experience in medical and surgical management of sleep disorders.  As a board-certified sleep specialist and a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), Dr. Wikholm has unique expertise in diagnosing, treating and managing sleep illnesses. 

video on sleep apnea courtesy of the AASM

sleep study - what to expect video



Members of the sleep team   will review and evaluate the information gathered during the sleep study.  It typically will take several days to properly evaluate your sleep study and to have a complete summary report.

In analyzing the data, a sleep technologist (Registered Polysomnographic Technologist/ RPSGT)  will first score your sleep study by marking your sleep stages and identifying any events of abnormal breathing or leg movement.  The board certified sleep physician will then review the results to determine what kind of sleep problem you may have. After the board certified sleep physician makes his diagnosis, you will have follow up in the office to discuss the results and you options of treatment.

Your doctor may recommend an in-lab sleep study to:

  • Test for sleep-related breathing disorders including sleep apnea.   
  • Evaluate behaviors during sleep due to parasomnias.
  • Diagnose periodic limb movement disorder.
  • Help with the diagnosis of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD).    
  • Evaluate your sleep to obtain more information about excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia).
  • Diagnose narcolepsy or other types of hypersomnia.  (To diagnose narcolepsy in addition to the nighttime polysomnogram you will also have a MSLT -Multiple Sleep Latency Test).
  • Diagnose various parasomnias.
  • A titration polysomnogram may be done to titrate or calibrate the levels of continuous positive airway pressure which is necessary if you will be needing CPAP for treatment of a in patients who receive CPAP therapy for sleep related breathing disorders.
  • An in lab sleep study may also be necessary to determine why treatment for a sleep disorder is not working.

An in-lab sleep study (also known as an attended polysomnogram) will give with the most complete evaluation of your sleep.  For your attended in lab polysomnogram you will stay overnight at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Maria.  The sleep lab is located in the Marian Hancock Building (across the street from Marian Medical Center).

At the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Maria (SDCSM) you will be monitored by a polysomnographic technician.  Your comfort and safety is very important to us and therefore one sleep technologist is responsible for no more than two patients at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Maria.

An in-lab sleep polysomnogram records your brain waves, EKG (heartbeats) and breathing as you sleep.  It also charts your eye movements, limb movements and oxygen levels in your blood. The data from your polysomnogram will allow the professionals at the Sleep Center to make a diagnosis and help develop a treatment plan for you.