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What to do if you can't sleep during a sleep study

Can't get a good night's sleep before your upcoming sleep apnea sleep test? We've listed out a couple of easy ways to help you prepare yourself at home for the sleep test.

Are you feeling a little daunted about your up-and-coming sleep apnea sleep test? Or are you currently hours into the sleep study frantically googling because you just can't sleep? Perhaps you woke up the morning after an at-home sleep test and felt so stressed about the test that you didn't accurately represent your usual sleep schedule? No matter the cause for your sleepless concern, stick with us, and we will discuss how to manage this situation (or how to stop worrying about it in the future!).

People who suffer with obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders are sometimes encouraged to head to a sleep lab to participate in a sleep study. It's also possible to take an at-home sleep test. These sleep tests can also be used to diagnose various sleep disorders.

Understanding Your Anxiety Over the Sleep Test

It's natural to be anxious about falling asleep under study conditions, knowing that your every breath is being monitored by a device. Here are some common causes of anxiety related to a sleep study:

  • Unfamiliarity with the process - Not knowing what to expect strikes fear to many, and it’s understandable. Remember that you’ll be dealing with a process that’s completely new to you.
  • Discomfort with monitoring equipment - Sleep tests typically involve attaching devices to the body, and this can feel uncomfortable for some.
  • Concerns about sleep quality - Since you’re being monitored and the sleep conditions may have changed, you may worry about whether or not you can sleep as normal. Knowing you can potentially disrupt the study adds to the anxiety.
  • Concerns about the result - What if you get diagnosed with sleep apnea or other sleep disorders? Knowing that the test may reveal a medical condition can be worrisome.

The good news is that it isn't as scary as it sounds, and there are plenty of options if you are unable to perform under pressure. And, there are things you can do to prepare for it!

How to prepare yourself for the sleep study

Do some research into the sleep facilities.

If you are going to an on-site sleep lab, it may be a wise idea to do a little research to find out exactly what to expect. Although this might seem like bringing your fears to reality, most sleep testing facilities are more hotel-like than hospital-like. You can also speak with somebody from the lab to see if they allow you to bring items from home. Having your standard pillow or current read may help you feel more comfortable. 

Wake up a little earlier.

On the day of your sleep test, it may be beneficial to set the alarm a little earlier than you usually would. This way, you will be more likely to feel fatigued in the lab bed. In addition, waking up a tad earlier can help set you up for success by burning off a little more energy before your sleep, especially if you are prone to high-energy nervousness, which may keep you awake.

A man waking up early for his sleep test - NSW CPAP

Avoid excess coffee and sugar.

There's no need to stone-cold cut out all of life's pleasantries; however, skipping the after-lunch latte or dinner-time diet coke could help create a calm sleeping environment later in the evening. Likewise, with high doses of sugar. This doesn't mean spending the day checking the contents of all of your food but rather just not going overboard. A sugar-high kicking in during your sleep trial due to anticipatory munching through the whole office's cookie jar may not be an ideal scenario. 

Do some exercise during the day.

Whether it's your daily gym class or a lunchtime walk around the block of your office building, being active is a great idea to eliminate some excess energy before the test. Tiring your body and mind is a great way to prepare for a good night's rest. 

An elderly man exercising to burn energy before his sleep test - NSW CPAP

What to do if you just can't sleep

First of all, relax. Treat this moment just like any other time you have had trouble falling asleep and ask yourself, did it last forever? Or did you eventually fall asleep? Chances are, history will repeat itself, and this time won't be the one-off time where you stay awake forever. These things happen; you aren't the first and certainly won't be the last to struggle sleeping while being monitored. So take a big breath and take it back to the basics.

Before we dive into some techniques, let's begin with the end in mind and ask: what happens if you can't sleep? If you cannot sleep for long enough for the on-site sleep expert to collect enough data, then you will likely be asked to schedule another night or try an at-home monitoring test. Neither option will leave you stranded and without a prospect.

Focus on your breathing

Take a moment to shift your focus away from your wandering mind and sleepless body and focus on something you have complete control over – your breath. Count each breath as it comes and goes, whether a simple "in" and "out" or counting each breath as it comes and goes "25", "26", or breathing in for three, pausing for three and out for three. Plenty of breathing techniques can help you centre yourself and release some of the tension that comes with an overthinking mind. If you are having trouble concentrating and prefer a guided breathing ritual, search on your phone for various options.

An elderly man focusing on his breathing - NSW CPAP

Listen to a bedtime story

It might sound corny, but sometimes the best way to take your mind off trying to sleep is to focus on something else. Why not bring back the humble bedtime story? The app 'calm' features bedtime stories read by celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Anne Hathaway, just to mention a few.

Consider an at-home sleep test.

The home test allows you to complete the study at your convenience. You will receive your sleep study in advance and be provided with easy-to-follow instructions to administer it confidently. The device does not have any wires or restrictive equipment. Instead, you simply place it on your fingertip. Clinically valid, the device will be reviewed by a Sleep and Respiratory Physician. 

Are you interested in getting started? You can order the at-home sleep test here. You will receive your test kit, which includes the at-home test sensor, finger wraps, and an activation code for the companion app. Before you retire to bed, open the app and follow the instructions to record your sleep. A sleep expert will send your sleep report to you within 3-5 days of completing three nights of testing. After that, you can speak with a sleep coach over the phone to determine your next step (this phone call is included in the test cost).

Take that step toward improving your sleep and contact our friendly sleep specialists. Book a consultation today!

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