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Who Needs a Sleep Study?

Your doctor might not detect a sleep problem during a routine office visit because you're awake. Thus, you should let your doctor know if you or a family member/sleep partner thinks you might have a sleep problem.

For example, talk with your doctor if you:

  • Have chronic (ongoing) snoring
  • Often feel sleepy during the day, even though you've spent enough time in bed to be well rested
  • Don't wake up feeling refreshed and alert
  • Have trouble adapting to shift work

Your doctor might be able to diagnose a sleep disorder based on your sleep schedule and habits. However, he or she also might need the results from sleep studies and other medical tests to diagnose a sleep disorder.

Sleep studies often are used to diagnose sleep-related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea. Signs of these disorders include loud snoring, gasping, or choking sounds while you sleep or pauses in breathing during sleep.

Other common signs and symptoms of sleep disorders include the following:

  • It takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night.
  • You often wake up during the night and then have trouble falling asleep again, or you wake up too early and aren't able to go back to sleep.
  • You feel sleepy during the day and fall asleep within 5 minutes if you have a chance to nap, or you fall asleep at inappropriate times during the day.
  • You have creeping, tingling, or crawling feelings in your legs that you can relieve by moving or massaging them, especially in the evening and when you try to fall asleep.
  • You have vivid, dreamlike experiences while falling asleep or dozing.
  • You have episodes of sudden muscle weakness when you're angry, fearful, or when you laugh.
  • You feel as though you can't move when you first wake up.
  • Your bed partner notes that your legs or arms jerk often during sleep.
  • You regularly feel the need to use stimulants, such as caffeine, to stay awake during the day.

Many of the same signs and symptoms of sleep disorders can occur in infants and children. If your child snores or has other signs or symptoms of sleep problems, talk with his or her doctor.

If you've had a sleep disorder for a long time, you may not notice how it affects your daily routine. Using a sleep diary, such as the one found in "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep," might be helpful.

Your doctor will work with you to decide whether you need a sleep study. A sleep study allows your doctor to observe sleep patterns and diagnose a sleep disorder, which can then be treated.

Certain medical conditions have been linked to sleep disorders, such as heart failure, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.

If you have or have had one of these conditions, ask your doctor whether it would be helpful to have a sleep study.

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Updated: March 29, 2012