Sleep Doctors and Clinics

Woman taking a sleep test

With daily life demanding so much of our time and energy, it is important now more than ever to get enough sleep, and quality sleep as well. About 45% of Americans have reported that poor sleep has negatively impacted their daily life at least once in the past seven days.

If you have found yourself struggling with symptoms like daytime sleepiness, snoring, or gasping and choking during sleep, you may have a sleeping disorder. To gain an official diagnosis, talk to your doctor about doing a sleep study test. For more information on sleep study tests, sleep clinics, and sleep doctors, take a look below.

Primary Care and Sleep Doctors

Before you start preparing yourself for your sleep study test, you need to visit with your primary care doctor to be evaluated and discuss next steps. Be open with your physician about what you’re experiencing when it comes to poor sleep or any other abnormal effects you’ve been noticing.

Bringing your sleeping partner (or any person who has been present when you sleep) along to your appointment can be beneficial because they may have noticed symptoms you aren’t aware of.

If your doctor decides that you’re experiencing typical symptoms of a sleep disorder, he or she will most likely recommend you see a sleep doctor to be further evaluated.

Sleep Doctors

A sleep doctor is a health professional who specializes in issues relating to sleep, sleep disorders, and sleep health. A sleep doctor may be a sleep physician or a sleep psychologist. Each type of sleep doctor deals with different aspects of sleep health, so finding the right one for you is going to be the best way to get your diagnosis quickly.

Most sleep physicians have extra training in sleep medicine. Fellowship training programs exist that offer additional training after residency training. Many sleep doctors are certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine or are a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties. In addition to their expertise in sleep, sleep doctors may also have backgrounds in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, and otorhinolaryngology.

Sleep Study Test: Polysomnogram

Once you’ve been referred to a sleep doctor, you will be sent to a sleep clinic where you will undergo a sleep study test and sleep evaluation. There are multiple types of sleep studies, but a polysomnogram (PSG) is specifically used when a patient is suspected of having a sleep disorder.

What is a Polysomnogram?

A polysomnogram is a diagnostic test similar to that of a home sleep test, but with additional measurements. It is conducted overnight in a sleep clinic with a sleep technician or sleep technologist. Polysomnograms measure nasal and oral airflow, respiratory effort, oxygen levels, as well as EEG, EKG, EMG, and other biologic measurements.

How Much Do Polysomnograms Cost at Sleep Clinics?

There is no set amount for how much polysomnograms or overnight sleep studies cost. The type of sleep clinic , your healthcare provider, and insurance coverage can make a huge difference in cost. However, there is a general price range that overnight polysomnograms may fall under.

Usually, these overnight tests cost anywhere from $600 to $5,000 (or more) each night. The average cost is normally around $1,000 to $2,000 per night.

Woman in a sleep clinic

Sleep Clinics

In order for you to undergo a polysomnogram, you will need to travel to a sleep clinic where the sleep study test can be administered. If you aren’t familiar with sleep clinics, here is basic information that’s important to know as you begin your journey to being diagnosed.

What is a Sleep Clinic?

A sleep clinic or sleep center is a facility used in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. There are many sleep disorders that are evaluated in sleep clinics, such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, periodic leg movements during sleep, and narcolepsy.

A sleep clinic usually maintains a diagnostic sleep laboratory where sleep studies (like polysomnograms) and sleep apnea tests are conducted. The clinic is directed by a medical director (usually a sleep physician) and the sleep study tests are conducted by sleep technologists (RST and RPSGT).

How to Choose a Sleep Clinic

There’s no need to worry about finding a sleep clinic because there are at least a few located in every major city across the country. Choosing the best sleep clinic is another topic. There are a few considerations to keep in mind when deciding which clinic to go to.

  • Proper medical certifications: The sleep doctor should have a M.D. or D.O degree, and should also be board-certified in sleep medicine. Additionally, sleep technologists running the sleep study should have one or more of these certifications—Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT), Registered Sleep Technologist (RST), Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT), and Sleep Disorders Specialist (SDS).
  • Clinic accreditations: The sleep clinic itself may have accreditation of its own. Many clinics are accredited through the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
  • Positive Reviews: As with any business or service provider, there are public reviews to be seen. Check to see if the sleep clinic has a majority of positive reviews.

Polysomnograms and Sleep Clinics

When your sleep doctor orders you a sleep study test or polysomnogram, you will probably have a ton of questions. While your sleep doctor can answer any and all questions to put your mind at ease, it’s always nice to go into the situation prepared. Take a look at this quick overview of what it’s like to experience a polysomnogram inside a sleep clinic.

Polysomnogram Process

Compared to a home sleep test, a polysomnogram is more intense because you aren’t in the comfort of your own home and bed. You will need to make an appointment to visit a lab where the test will be completed. Your appointment will begin in the evening, about two hours before your normal bedtime.

To complete the polysomnogram, you will need to stay overnight at your designated sleep clinic, where you will sleep in a private room. Most sleep clinics have multiple “bedrooms” where there is normal furniture (regular beds, TVs, nightstands, private bathroom) to make the space feel as homey as possible. You can bring whatever amenities you need for your bedtime routine, as well as your own pajamas.

Once you’ve settled in, a sleep technician will administer the sleep study test by monitoring you as you sleep. The technologist will attach several types of sensors to your scalp, skin, and abdomen. These sensors will measure your brain activity, eye movement, blood oxygen level, body movement, and more. Be prepared for a lot of wires and attachments because polysomnograms require them in order to capture extensive measurements.

The technician will monitor you from another room and communicate through an intercom system. After all the machine calibrations are completed, it’s time for you to get to sleep. You are free to follow your normal bedtime routine, such as reading, listening to music, or watching TV. Although you may not sleep as well as you normally would at home, this hasn’t been shown to alter or skew the data. When you wake up the next morning, you can leave the sleep clinic and resume your normal activities as soon as you would like.

Keep in mind that it may take up to three weeks for you to receive your results from the sleep study test. The sleep technician who recorded your data will need to study it, graph it into sleep cycles, and then pass the information along to your sleep doctor. Once he or she has reviewed your results, in addition to other factors like sleep history, they will be able to give you your sleep apnea diagnosis.

child in bed

How to Prepare For a Polysomnogram

There is much to plan for when it comes to undergoing a sleep study test like a polysomnogram. Because it’s conducted at a sleep clinic, you’ll want to make sure you come fully prepared so that you don’t have to run back to grab anything or worst case scenario, redo the test. To make sure your polysomnogram goes smoothly and according to plan, remember these tips.

  • Avoid caffeine: After lunch on the day of testing, stay away from caffeine in any form (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate).
  • Pass on the alcoholic drinks: Alcohol in any amount can interfere with sleep (even if you aren’t aware of it).
  • Clean up: Wash any hair gel or other styling products out of your hair. They can also interfere with the sleep recording.
  • Don’t nap: Stay awake the entire day because napping will affect your sleep during the study.
  • Talk to your doctor: If you’re on regular medication, make sure your doctor knows what you take. You may need to stop taking it temporarily for the sleep study test.
  • Bring amenities: Pack whatever amenities you will need for the night and morning (toiletries, pajamas, clothes, cellphone, etc.)

Suffering from poor sleep on a regular basis is not something you can let go long term. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of a sleep disorder, contact your doctor as soon as possible to get a diagnosis. Now that you’re familiar with polysomnograms, you can go into the sleep study test process confident and informed. For information on your risk factor for sleep apnea, take this quiz.

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