Diagnosing Sleep Disorders

11/07/2012

Diagnosing sleep disorders can be challenging for an individual who knows that something is wrong with his or her ability to receive a full night of rest. Fortunately, there are a number of different sleep disorder tests that can help to provide greater insight into where the problem may lie. Some of the more common methods include the following:

  • Polysomnography (PSG) – this is frequently considered to be the primary method of diagnosing sleep disorders. It requires the patient to go to a sleep center, which may be a sleep laboratory, designated hospital rooms, or even a hotel room that has been specially equipped. These examinations require an overnight stay in which the patient is monitored by a technician who has been specially trained in the technique. The patient is monitored in a number of physiological ways throughout the sleep, including an EKG, and EEG, oxygen levels, respirations, eye extremity movements, and muscle tone. An audio and video recording is also taken to record the way the patient slept during the night. This can be an effective test for spotting restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, parasomnia, and everything in between. It can also be helpful for ruling out various insomnia causes.
  • Overnight oximetry – this is frequently one of the first tests that are used for diagnosing sleep disorder because of its simplicity. A clothespin-like probe is worn on the earlobe and finger of the patient, to continuously monitor his or her heart rate and oxygen levels. A sensor and red light detect changes in the blood color, which can be an indication of oxygen loss and can help to discover if there are nocturnal breathing issues in the way of the individual’s ability to sleep well. One of the more common disorders identified in this way is sleep apnea. This test is usually done at home.
  • Actigraphy – this uses a small device about the size of a wristwatch in order to measure activity during sleep. The device is capable of monitoring the sleeper’s movement and can help to assess the waking and sleeping schedule – also known as the circadian rhythms – over a number of nights. This device might be worn for a few weeks or even several months. This can help to map out a pattern of the sleeping and waking cycle so that disruptions can be identified. The results from this test are often used alongside those from a sleep diary.

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