A sleep study (called polysomnography in medicine) is s a non-invasive, overnight examination of the patient's sleep patterns. During a sleep study, a technician uses equipment to monitor the patient's brain activity as the patient moves through the various stages of sleep, as well as eye movements, level of oxygen in the blood, heart and breathing rates, and other symptoms like snoring or body movements. Dr. Macdonald does not perform sleep studies himself but refers patients for this test.
Sleep studies are used to identify a variety of problems related to sleep patterns or conditions that may prevent restful sleep. For example, restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorders can disrupt sleep. A sleep study can also determine if a patient has sleep apnea (stops breathing repeatedly during the night). Other conditions that can be diagnosed or examined with a sleep study include sleepwalking and narcolepsy, in which the patient suddenly falls asleep at all hours.
A sleep study is typically performed in a special lab, although they are occasionally performed in the patient's home. The lab holds all the equipment necessary for the test and is designed for maximum sleeping comfort. After the patient prepares for bed, the technician attaches special sensors to various points on the body. In all other respects, a sleep study is rather like spending a night in a hotel rather than a bed at home.
Sleep is a complex process. The brain controls sleep and there are various stages in which different things happen in the body. These stages include drowsiness, light sleep, deep sleep and dream sleep. All are necessary for the patient to feel rested and for good health. The sleep study shows not only what the various parts of the brain are doing during the different sleep stages, but also provides other important information like the level of oxygen in the blood, and the heart rate and blood pressure.
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