a complete sleep evaluation should be considered and discussed with your physician. Before your visit, it may be helpful to track your sleep patterns and medications.
Primary Care Physicians and Sleep Specialists
Depending on your insurance plan and other factors, your primary care physician may start your evaluation by running tests for specific medical disorders that are known to affect sleep. Your physician might even be able to diagnose a sleep problem based solely on your symptoms and recommend initial treatments. At some point, you may be referred to a sleep specialist for a more extensive assessment of your sleep complaints and for more specific treatments.
If this occurs, be sure to ask your physician to refer you to a certified sleep physician. Certification requires that a physician undergo formal training and pass an examination in sleep disorders to demonstrate a higher level of expertise. To check if your sleep physician is certified, or to find a sleep professional , go to either www.absm.org to check ‘verification of diplomates,’ or to the ‘who is certified’ section of www.abim.org.
Sleep Studies (Polysomnograms)
After an initial consultation with your physician or a sleep specialist, you may be referred for a sleep study. The medical term for this study is “polysomnogram,” which is a noninvasive, pain-free procedure that usually requires spending a night or two in a sleep facility. During a polysomnogram, a sleep technologist records multiple biological functions during sleep, such as brain wave activity, eye movement, muscle tone, heart rhythm and breathing via electrodes and monitors placed on the head, chest and legs.
After a full night’s sleep is recorded, the data will be tabulated by a technologist and presented to a physician for interpretation. Depending on the physician’s orders, patients may be given therapy during the course of the study, which may include medication, oxygen or a device called continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP.
Preparing for Your Sleep Study
A list of specific instructions is typically provided to patients before their arrival at the testing facility, but you may want to consider asking additional questions before your