Sleep Testing

About Sleep Testing at Virginia Mason

Sleep testing room
Sleep Lab Room

Overnight Sleep Test in the Sleep Lab

An overnight sleep test typically begins with check-in at the scheduled time in the Hospital, Level 10 (925 Seneca St., Seattle). A sleep technologist begins with an introduction, and he or she will take you to your assigned room. Each patient has his or her own room with a bathroom and shower. Next is the application of monitoring equipment. This may take some time, and you should discuss any skin sensitivities to tape or other adhesives with your technologist. The sensors will detect:

  • Airflow for breathing
  • Chest and abdomen movements
  • Oxygen levels in the blood
  • Snoring intensity
  • Muscle tone of the chin and leg
  • Electrical activity of the heart (EKG) and brain (EEG)

A video recording is made, and is used mainly to evaluate unusual behaviors such as seizures or sleepwalking. Any medications that are usually taken before bed time should be brought to the test, discussed with your technologist, and taken at the appropriate time. Lights are usually turned out between 10 and 10:30 p.m., and monitoring continues until approximately 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. During this time, if you need to use the bathroom or have any concerns, an intercommunication voice system is readily available. 

Overnight Home Sleep Apnea Test

An overnight home sleep apnea test begins by meeting with a sleep center staff member at a specific time. This meeting will take about 30 minutes to complete. It is important to learn about all the components of the home sleep test equipment and how to place them properly. After taking the kit home, you will put on all the sensors (chest, belly, airflow, oxygen, snoring) just before going to bed that night. After waking up the next morning, the set should be returned to Virginia Mason on time for downloading the information so the sleep physician can analyze it. Learn more about testing for sleep apnea in your home.

Daytime Test

Daytime tests almost always occur after an overnight sleep test. They consist of four or five observation periods that are 20 to 40 minutes each, spaced in intervals throughout the day. Patients are instructed to relax quietly in bed to see how they fall asleep when given the chance.
 
Another, less often used, variation of testing asks patients to try to remain awake during the observation period. In either test, the patient should not sleep or doze in times other than the observation periods. Breakfast and lunch are provided and usually caffeinated substances should not be consumed. The day tests end in the late afternoon, usually no later than 6 p.m.

Follow-up visitst

After the sleep testing is performed, the physician and patient will meet to discuss the results and the relevance to each patient's specific case. This visit usually takes place within a couple weeks, but sometimes sooner. Depending on the results and diagnosis, further sleep testing or other follow-up visits may be scheduled.

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Preparing for Your Overnight Sleep Test at Virginia Mason

The Sleep Disorders Clinic will call you to remind you of your test. If we are unable to reach you, we will leave a detailed message. Please call us at (206) 625-7180 to acknowledge you have received the message. 

Entrance to sleep lab, Hospital Level 10
Entrance to Sleep Lab

You may receive an automated reminder call from Virginia Mason. This reminder call is for your follow-up appointment to go over your test results. We apologize for any confusion this may cause.

Please arrive on time for your overnight sleep test. If you anticipate being late, call the Sleep Disorders Clinic at (206) 625-7180 to inform your technologist. If we do not hear from you, we may fill your appointment from the waitlist. It is important that we hear from you.

  • Have your evening meal before you arrive. There are no food or drink restrictions, but we do advise minimal caffeine prior to your test.
     
  • Bring all your medications. If you use a sleep aid, even occasionally, please bring it with you.
     
  • Bring sleep clothes and your toiletries or shaving kit. There is a private bathroom (shower) in your room. The towels are supplied. Please bring whatever you think you'll need (toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, etc.).
     
  • The room looks more like a hotel room than a typical hospital room. There is a regular bed, recliner, TV with cable and a DVD/VCR player. You are welcome to bring a movie if you want. All the beds are made up with linens and pillows. You are welcome to bring your own pillow.
     
  • Please remember to take everything with you when you leave. Items left in the Sleep Lab are turned over to the hospital lost and found daily.
     
  • Pediatric patients (under 18), must be accompanied by a parent or guardian through the admitting process. Please feel free to bring whatever you think will make your young person feel comfortable.
     
  • Parking information for your overnight sleep study.

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Sleep Test Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What should I bring to my overnight sleep study at Virginia Mason?
  2. What shouldn't I bring to my overnight sleep study at Virginia Mason?
  3. Is my dinner provided?
  4. Can my spouse or partner accompany me?
  5. If the patient is a minor, does a parent or guardian need to accompany the patient?
  6. Should I take my usual medications when I have my overnight sleep study?
  7. Can I smoke during my sleep study?
  8. What happens during an overnight sleep study?
  9. What time do I go to sleep?
  10. What time do I get up in the morning?
  11. What happens if I am unable to fall asleep?
  12. I toss and turn while sleeping - will I pull off all those wires?
  13. What if I need to use the bathroom during the night?
  14. Do I have to see my sleep physician after my overnight sleep study?

1. What should I bring to my overnight sleep study at Virginia Mason?
Please bring all your usual medications, pajamas or comfortable sleep clothes (at a minimum shorts for men and a loose fitting top and shorts for women) along with all your toiletries. Sleeping naked is not allowed; we can provide a hospital gown if needed. You are welcome to bring a book and/or magazines, VHS movie or DVD. Please remember to take everything you bring with you when you leave.

2. What shouldn't I bring to my overnight sleep study at Virginia Mason?
We request that you do not bring work with you! Cell phones or pagers must be turned off when your study begins. There is a telephone in the room for outgoing calls if needed. We ask that your wristwatch be removed while the study is being conducted. Please remove nail polish from one of your index fingers, makeup or facial creams and excess hair products.

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3. Is my dinner provided? 
No. We request that you have your evening meal prior to your arrival at the Sleep Center. Please avoid excess alcohol and caffeine. If you will be staying for a day study the following day, your breakfast and lunch will be served.

4. Can my spouse or partner accompany me?
Yes, they can stay during your set up, but will be required to leave at lights out.

5. If the patient is a minor, does a parent or guardian need to accompany the patient?
Yes. In some cases the parent/guardian does not need to stay with the patient the entire night, but must accompany the patient through the admitting procedure. However, for children under 13 years of age we normally require one parent/guardian to spend the entire night. A rollaway bed will be provided for the parent/guardian.

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6. Should I take my usual medications when I have my overnight sleep study? 
Yes, in most cases, but please be sure to discuss your medications with your sleep physician. Bring your medication with you and if you require a snack to take with your medication please bring that as well. Tell your technician all the medications you will be taking during your test. A refrigerator is available if needed.

7. Can I smoke during my sleep study?
NO. If you feel that this may be a problem, please tell your sleep physician. A nicotine patch can be prescribed for you to wear during your time here.

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8. What happens during an overnight sleep study?
A technologist will orient you to your room and give you information about what will happen during your study. You will be set up for your study with wires taped and glued (washable) to your head, chest and upper back, abdomen and shins. These wires are then connected to our computer network, lights are shut off and the technician from a room down the hall monitors you. The room is dark and quiet. There is an infrared camera in the room for safety. There is also an intercom if you need to speak with the technician during the study.

9. What time do I go to sleep?
Lights out is approximately 10 to 10:30 p.m.

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10. What time do I get up in the morning?
Most insurance companies require eight hours of testing, so if lights out is at 10 p.m., your technician will wake you up at 6 a.m. These times may vary based on your individual testing.

11. What happens if I am unable to fall asleep?
Most people are able to fall asleep. If you are having a problem falling asleep a nurse can administer a sleeping aid (pill). This will not interfere with your test.

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12. I toss and turn while sleeping — will I pull off all those wires?
The wires are designed to tolerate a lot of tugging. If a wire does come off, your technician can quickly reattach it.

13. What if I need to use the bathroom during the night?
You will inform your technician that you need to get up. Your technician will enter your room and disconnect you from the computer network. This only takes a few seconds.

14. Do I have to see my sleep physician after my overnight sleep study?
Yes, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled. If a follow up appointment was made for you at the time you scheduled your study, please keep that appointment. During the appointment, you will review your study results with your sleep physician. If you do not have a follow up appointment scheduled, please call us at (206) 625-7180 and we will make that appointment for you.

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