I can’t tell you how many times patients complain to me about their in-lab sleep study experiences. The vast majority of feedback is about how terrible the night was. Once in a blue moon, I’ll have someone tell me it was the best night of sleep in years. More often than not, it’s usually because there are no children or pets around to keep waking them throughout the night.
I’ve gotten literally hundreds of different complaints, but here are the 7 top complaints that I get:
1. I didn’t sleep at all. Can they even tell whether or not I have sleep apnea? Patients state that they only slept for one or two hours. Granted, it’s less than ideal. It’s been stated that you need a minimum of 4 hours to solid data to be able to have quality data for analysis. However, If you only slept for one hour, but you stopped breathing 30 times that hour, then you have obstructive sleep apnea with an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 30, regardless of how little you slept. In most cases, enough sleep time is seen, despite very fragmented sleep. Light sleep (Stage N1) can be perceived as being awake, when technically, you’re sleeping.
2. It was too cold. Different labs have different heating or cooling systems. There are standard temperature settings that all accredited labs must adhere to. However, everyone has different preferences, and the technicians should be able to accommodate requests for more blankets or to change the room temperature.
3. It was too noisy to sleep. You may think that bedrooms in sleep labs are soundproof, but they are not. Many labs are in office buildings or stand-alone facilities, so they are just as susceptible noises coming from surrounding areas. You may want to go by the site to see if there’s any construction activity next door.
4. The technician kept coming in to reattach my leads. Having so many leads attached to your body, it’s inevitable that one or more leads may fall off, especially if you toss and turn a lot. Rather than waste the entire night’s study due to a missing critical lead, it’s better for the tech to come back into the room to reattach the wire to your body. This is one of the disadvantages of a home study. If one important lead falls off, the entire night’s study can be useless.
5. The bed was too uncomfortable. Everyone has different bed preferences. Most modern sleep labs use high quality beds that are used by high-end hotels. However, some labs still use cots, like what they used to use in the early days 40 to 50 years ago. One way of avoiding this problem is to ask what type of mattress they use.
6. They had me go to sleep too early/woke me up too early. If your normal sleep time is 12 midnight, then making you go to bed at 9 PM is not a good idea. Waking you up too early can cut off critical times in REM sleep, when you’re dreaming, and most likely to have an apnea. In theory, labs should be able to accommodate for your normal bed times and routines. Ask about these issues before your appointment.
7. No body called me to schedule the sleep study/it’s been two weeks and nobody called me the the results. Different labs have different levels of service, from making the appointment to the aftercare events, including forwarding the test results to your physician in a prompt manner. In some cases, pre-authorization is needed, which may delay things even further. Don’t be afraid to call the sleep lab or your referring physician. Referrals can fall through the cracks occasionally, even with the best sleep labs.
Like with other service-oriented facilities, quality will vary. Do your due diligence by asking others that have gone the sleep lab you’re considering. Online review sites can be helpful, but take everything you read on the internet with a grain of salt. Past experiences from friends or family are probably the most helpful.
What other positive or negative experiences have you had while undergoing an in-lab sleep study? What’s your one piece of advice to a friend or family member that’s about to undergo a sleep study?