Dr Allie Hare
Consultant Sleep Physician and Secretary of the British Sleep Society
Seeing a sleep specialist is the best way to understand your sleep and what may be preventing you sleeping well. A sleep specialist can help give you the tools to develop healthy sleep for life, enabling you to wake refreshed, energised and positive.
In the first appointment, the specialist will ask detailed questions about your sleep and how you feel on waking. The clinician will also ask about the impact of your sleep problem on your daytime functioning, work and relationships.
There will also be questions designed to determine whether you might have sleep apnoea, leg movements disturbing sleep (restless legs syndrome, or limb movements in sleep), a parasomnia (unusual behaviours in sleep), hypersomnia (an increased need for sleep) or another form of sleep pathology.
Sleep studies are painless, non-invasive and involve wearing monitoring equipment attached to various points on your body during your sleep.
Sometimes you will be asked to complete a sleep diary. This involves recording your sleep patterns for a two-week period, so that the clinician can understand your sleep in more detail. You may also be asked to complete questionnaires about your sleep.
Conducting the sleep study
Once these initial assessments have been completed, the clinician will decide whether any special tests are required. A sleep study may be necessary.
Sleep studies are painless, non-invasive and involve wearing monitoring equipment attached to various points on your body during your sleep. These monitor things like your heart rate, oxygen levels and breathing during sleep. Sometimes, video monitoring of your sleep may be required. The equipment is designed to be as comfortable as possible and most people sleep fine during a sleep study, but even if you do not sleep quite as well as you would normally, this should not affect the results.
If you are asked to stay in a sleep laboratory, you will usually come to the sleep centre during the early evening. You will have your own room, designed to enable you to have a good night’s sleep. You will be encouraged to bring in anything which usually helps you sleep and wear your own sleepwear. You will then be invited back to the clinic to discuss the findings with your specialist and an individualised treatment programme will be developed to help improve your sleep.