Evaluation & Testing


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Do I have a sleep disorder?

Sleep disorders come in many forms. The problem may be obvious; you may fall asleep constantly at meetings or your bed partner may wake you because of irregular breathing patterns. Symptoms may be more subtle or even unnoticeable; you may experience long-term fatigue or general irritability.

Some people realize they have a sleep disorder because of specific symptoms, such as remembering waking up frequently. Others may have a sleep disturbance without realizing it at all, with sleep disruption occurring too briefly to be remembered. A primary symptom is daytime sleepiness, which may be perceived as normal, despite the concerns of friends, family and coworkers.

Anyone persistently exhibiting the following symptoms or conditions should consider getting evaluated by a physician specially trained in sleep medicine:

  • Irregular breathing during sleep.
  • Excessive sleepiness during the day.
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times (while driving, during meetings, etc.).
  • Temporary weakness of body or speech muscles occurring with excitement, anger or other strong emotions.
  • Sleep walking or talking.
  • Experiencing nightmares or disturbing dreams.
  • Having sleep-related seizures.
  • Difficulty with working nights or rotating shifts.
  • Repeated movements or twitching of the legs or arms during sleep (may be noticed only by bed partner).
  • Dissatisfaction with the amount or quality of sleep.
  • Difficulty with winter-time sleepiness or depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD).

What does an evaluation involve?

The evaluation begins when you fill out a sleep questionnaire. A physician trained in sleep medicine will then review the information you give. That doctor will interview you and perform a physical examination. Your referring physician will also send medical records related to your problem to The Sleep Center at Valley Medical Center. Depending on the nature of your sleep-related problem, treatment may begin at this point or you may be asked to undergo testing to further understand what happens to you when you sleep. Such testing often consists of a polysomnogram, an all-night sleep test). In some special cases other diagnostic testing, such as a daytime nap study, may be required. Other tests, such as laboratory testing or pulmonary function testing may also be ordered. After completion of this testing, your physician will discuss the results with you and recommend the appropriate treatment.

What is a polysomnogram?

A polysomnogram is a comprehensive, all-night testing procedure. Electrodes and sensors are attached to the head, chest, abdomen and legs to continuously monitor and record brain activity, various types of muscle activity, eye movements, breathing patterns, heart beat and oxygen level. There is no pain associated with the test. None of the electrodes or sensors go into or through the skin. All are attached to the surface of the skin or scalp. No hair is cut, no skin is broken and no electricity enters the body. With the exception of feeling the attached sensors (much the same as you notice the clothing you wear), you should experience no unpleasant symptoms.

Will my nightly routine be altered by the test?

Everything possible is done to ensure your stay is pleasant. We try to reproduce your usual sleep routine in our center. In most cases it is not necessary to exactly duplicate your sleep at home. In fact, your normal routine might be disruptive to the testing procedure.

Staff will monitor you throughout the testing procedure and are immediately available to assist with your needs.

What happens after my evaluation?

Your sleep doctor will review the results of your evaluation with you at a follow-up appointment. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your physician may prescribe "CPAP" therapy. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine gently pushes air through a tube and into a mask worn around your nose and/or mouth, to help you breath normally while you sleep. CPAP helps you rest, so that you awake alert and refreshed.

Does a doctor have to refer me?

Many patients are referred by their primary care physician or healthcare provider. However, we do accept patients who come to us directly with their sleep-related problems.

Will my insurance be billed?

You will be billed for all technical aspects of the polysomnogram or other tests ordered through The Sleep Center. Professional charges-physicians interviewing patients, interpreting sleep tests, and other studies done in the laboratory-may be billed separately.