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My Sleep Study Experience: Overnight Test for Sleep Apnea

Sitting at my desk at work, I would often find myself dozing off, unable to keep alert and focused on my job.

Sitting at my desk at work, I would often find myself dozing off, unable to keep alert and focused on my job.

My Snoring Becomes A Wake-Up Call

It was my snoring that finally caused me to do something about my sleep problem.

At first, when my wife told me I was an extremely loud snorer, we both treated it as something of a joke. To be honest, I didn’t really believe it. But it got worse. It eventually reached the point where it was making her nights miserable—and sometimes, my snores were so loud I was even waking myself up. We knew something had to be done.

Seeking a Solution To My Loud Snoring

The first thing I tried was nasal strips, the little appliances athletes often attach to their nostrils to allow greater air intake during exertion. These products were widely advertised as solutions for snoring problems, but for me, they provided no relief at all. After trying them for a couple of weeks, I gave up on that hope.

As I continued searching, the marketplace seemed filled with anti-snoring devices and home remedies of various kinds, but none seemed right for me. My greatest fear was that the only effective solution would be surgery, which I definitely did not want.

The marketplace seemed filled with anti-snoring devices and home remedies of various kinds, but none seemed right for me.

The marketplace seemed filled with anti-snoring devices and home remedies of various kinds, but none seemed right for me.

The breakthrough came when I discussed my snoring problem with my doctor. I also mentioned that I was having a lot of trouble staying awake during the day. Sitting at my desk at work, I would often find myself dozing off, unable to keep alert and focused on my job. The combination of my two symptoms, snoring and daytime sleepiness, was a significant clue to my real problem. My doctor immediately sent me to a specialist, an MD whose practice focused on sleep-related issues.

A Specialist Sends Me for a Sleep Study

After examining me, the specialist recommended that I have a sleep study done. A sleep study is designed to provide continuous measurements of brain activity, muscle movement, heart rate, breathing, and blood oxygen levels as you sleep normally. That information then becomes the basis for the physician's diagnosis of the causes of your sleep issues and the course of treatment required to alleviate the problem.

What the Sleep Study Experience Was Like

I was not at all convinced that I needed to take what seemed like a pretty drastic step. The sleep study would involve actually staying overnight in a testing facility, all wired up with electrodes and with a stranger watching me sleep. I didn't think a little snoring necessitated all that. But I finally agreed.

The Sleep Center

The study was done in a local hospital sleep center. I arrived in the early evening, and after the intake procedures were completed, I was allowed to relax before going to bed. When bedtime arrived, the staff attached electrodes to various parts of my body, including an LED finger clip to measure oxygen levels in my blood.

None of this was painful or even very uncomfortable, except for a little pressure from the finger clip. As far as I remember, being all wired up did not adversely affect my sleep.

A sleep study center

A sleep study center

The data from the probes were sent to a computer in the next room which kept a continuous record of how my body functioned as I slept. The computer kept track of factors such as eye movements, brain activity, heart rate, and levels of oxygen and carbon monoxide in my blood. At the completion of the test, this data would be used to produce a chart, called a polysomnogram, which would allow my doctor to analyze in detail every aspect of my sleep experience.

When the preparations were complete, the room was darkened, and I was left to go to sleep as I normally would. The sleep technician was in an adjacent room monitoring the readouts from the electrodes that had been attached to me. She would occasionally enter the room during the night to check on me.

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I found this experience of sleeping in a strange place under the watchful eye of someone I didn’t know far less disturbing than I had anticipated. All in all, I seemed to sleep about as well as I would at home.

How the Sleep Test Was Conducted

After being allowed to sleep normally for some time, the technician awakened me for the second half of the test. She fitted me with a mask attached to a device that was designed to help me breathe better during sleep. I later learned that this was called a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. Now, with the mask on my face to provide more air than I could take in on my own, I went back to sleep as the computer continued to record how my body was functioning as I slept.

By dividing the test into sections of normal sleep and sleep assisted by the CPAP machine, the resulting polysomnograms would allow my doctor to compare the quality of my sleep both with and without the use of the CPAP. (Note that the two halves of the test, without and with CPAP, may be conducted in separate visits, especially if this is your initial sleep study).

In the morning, the technician awakened me at the planned time. After being unhooked from the equipment, I was left to get dressed and prepare for the day. I went from the sleep center directly to work.

My Sleep Study Produces Some Surprising Results

Before going in for the sleep study, I was interviewed about my sleep habits and asked to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions asked how often I found myself waking and then going back to sleep during the night. I confidently answered that this rarely happened. Another question concerned whether I ever stopped breathing while sleeping. That, too, I was sure did not apply to me. Imagine my surprise when the results of the study showed that my breathing stopped, and I awoke slightly gasping for air, literally dozens of times during the night. These are classic symptoms of sleep apnea.

I was totally unaware this was happening until the sleep study revealed it. It also showed that because of all the times I stopped breathing, the levels of oxygen in my blood during the night were far lower than they should have been. I was actually in a medically dangerous condition without knowing it.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Loud snoring at night

Being headachy when you awake in the morning

Awakening during the night gasping for air

Sleepiness during the day

Sleep apnea can be a life-threatening condition. It was a major contributing factor to famed pro football player Reggie White dying in his sleep at age 43. You can read about it at:

NFL Star Reggie White: Death Due to Obstructive Sleep Apnea

CPAP: The Solution to My Snoring Problem

When she got the results of my sleep study test, my specialist informed me of my sleep apnea diagnosis and strongly recommended that I begin using a CPAP machine. The breathing difficulties I was experiencing were due to blockages caused by the unconscious and unintended relaxation of muscles in my breathing passages as soon as I entered a state of sleep. The CPAP supplies positive air pressure to keep breathing passages open when that muscle relaxation takes place.

As a result of the sleep study and my doctor’s diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, my insurance carrier provided me with a CPAP machine at no cost to myself. The only stipulation was that during a probation period, I had to actually use the device pretty much every night. The machine itself kept a record of when it was being used.

I have used my CPAP every night for years now. My snoring is gone, I sleep much better at night, and I'm far less tired during the day.

It took me a little while to adjust to sleeping with a mask on my face. I had to learn by trial and error how to position my head for the greatest comfort and least seepage of air from the mask. But it has been worth it. Nothing could induce me to go back to the kind of nights I was enduring before my sleep study and the CPAP treatment that resulted from it.

If you are having difficulties with snoring at night and sleepiness during the day, get that sleep study done! It can change your life for the better. If you are one of the many people who are suffering from sleep apnea but don't know it, a sleep study may literally be a lifesaver.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2014 Ronald E Franklin


Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 21, 2018:

Thanks, Audrey. The unfortunate truth about CPAP is that it is not a cure for sleep apnea, and helps only as long as it continues to be used. In all my years of CPAP use I've never been tempted to stop using it because I sleep so wretchedly without it! I'll search for that article on your slider.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 21, 2018:

I'm back! Just wanted to add that I made a huge mistake. I began feeling so good, I thought I didn't need my CPAP anymore. Stopped using it completely and after a short period of time all the symptoms returned. I have a hub about my personal experience with sleep apnea. We can't leave a link in the comment section, but I'd love to have you take a look at it. Hope you're doing well. Enjoyed this article even more the second time.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 23, 2017:

Midnight Muse, what a great testimony. I think you're right that we usually don't even think in terrms of children having sleep apnea. I wonder how many others are in the same situation as your son, and the parents don't know it. I hope your story alerts some parents to check for sleep apnea in their children.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 23, 2017:

Thanks, vocalcoach. With so many different mask and machine designs available, I'm sure you can find one where the noise is minimized. I don't even notice the noise with mine. So, I'm hoping you'll find a machine and mask combination that works for you.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on December 03, 2016:

I've had this test many times. True, it isn't my favorite thing to do, but it certainly indicates one's quality of sleep. My doctor recently ordered me the latest gear in the hopes that it will be an improvement over what I've been using (the mask) for the past 5 years. The noise from my present mask keeps me awake defeating the whole purpose of wearing a mask in the first place.

Great article! Sharing.

Midnight Muse from Tampa, Florida on December 02, 2016:

My son was diagnosed with sleep apnea at age 9. Most people do not realize that sleep apnea can effect children too. His doctor explained that the shape of his airways was causing the problems and that we had already done all that we could, such as removed his tonsils and adenoids, to try to resolve the problem. It took him about 6 months to get used to the mask, but it has changed everything. Previously, psychologists had diagnosed him with ADHD, but it turns out that the issue was actually lack of oxygen and sleep. Over the years, the lack of sleep in children can cause significant behavioral issues. I share this in case there are any other parents who have children with respiratory and sleep issues in hopes that it might help.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 05, 2015:

Thanks so much, fpherj48. I'm glad this proved informative for you. And if you ever reconsider about having a sleep test, I hope this info will be helpful.

Suzie from Carson City on July 05, 2015:

Ron.....My Dr wanted me to schedule a sleep study. I reluctantly called and did so, but for some reason (can't recall now) I had to cancel. I have not rescheduled simply because I just don't believe I'm a candidate for sleep apnea. I'm a contrary my Dr nuts. She gives me a Rx....I research it in depth and independently decide I'm going to take alternative nutritional, herbal and/or holistic treatment instead.....But she and I get a long quite well anyway.

She has learned to just throw up her hands and let me do as I please..

This is an excellent, informative hub. Your writing is superb.....BTW, Congratulations on your 100 Hubber score!!...UP+++ Peace, Paula

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 04, 2015:

Thanks, BigMarble. A lot of people are initially reluctant to get a sleep study done, but we can both testify that it's well worth it.

Gregory Jones from IL on March 04, 2015:

Nice work on this hub. The sleep study for my CPAP went pretty smoothly as well. I sleep much better and don't wake up in the middle of the night as often. I am glad that I had it done and caught this before it caused a problem.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 22, 2014:

Hi, pstraubie48. It's great that your grandson is having his problem taken care of - sounds like he was in dangerous territory! Thanks for reading.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 22, 2014:

As you say, the study is not painful so that makes it easier I think to get good results. My grandson is on a bipap machine and has had about four sleep studies. He frequently stopped breathing during the night and because my daughter was so in tune to the sound of his breathing she awoke to jostle him to take a breath.

The bipap now does the work thankfully.

Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on November 16, 2014:

I appreciate that, prasetio30. And I'm very glad you picked up some info about sleep apnea you didn't have before.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on November 16, 2014:

Thanks, suzettenaples. You're right that the mask is a stumbling block for many sleep apnea sufferers. The majority give up on it after just a few weeks. But I've found that if you stick with it, you can adjust. The CPAP machine is not the only therapy available now, but it's still one of the most effective.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on November 16, 2014:

Hi, truthfornow. Waking up with headaches may well be an indicator of sleep apnea. I'd really encourage you to talk to your doctor and see if you have any of the other symptoms. I hope you don't, but it's best to get checked out.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on November 16, 2014:

Thanks so much, heidithorne. I'm glad to help give sleep apnea the notoriety it deserves - far too many people who suffer from it don't know they have it.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on November 16, 2014:

Thanks, vocalcoach. Having sleep apnea is not a blessing, but knowing that you have it and can do something about it is.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 16, 2014:

I learning something here. Thanks for writing and sharing with us. Voted up!

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on November 16, 2014:

Sorry to hear you suffer from sleep apnapia but glad you got it taken caste of. I am glad the mask helped you. I hope the medical profession finds an alternative cure as the mask is so cumbersome. Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative hub.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on November 16, 2014: