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Polysomnogram Test

A polysomnogram test is used to diagnose sleep disorders by monitoring sleep patterns.

Performed during an overnight stay in a sleep center, a polysomnogram test is an important diagnostic tool in sleep medicine. By monitoring a patient’s sleep stages and cycles throughout the night, a polysomnography technologist can determine whether the patient’s sleep patterns are disrupted, and if so, why.

What Conditions Can Be Diagnosed With a Polysomnogram Test?

A physician may order a polysomnogram test to confirm or rule out a variety of sleep disorders, including:

  • Sleep apnea – Pauses in breathing due to lack of respiratory effort
  • Bruxism – Teeth grinding, gnashing or clenching
  • Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders – Multiple irregular bouts of sleep and wakefulness
  • Idiopathic hypersomnia – Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Narcolepsy – Overwhelming drowsiness and a tendency to fall asleep in relaxing settings
  • Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) – Repetitive leg jerking or cramping
  • REM behavior disorder (RBD) – Sudden body movements and vocalizations during vivid dreams
  • Parasomnias – Abnormal behavior, such as sleepwalking or night terrors

What Does a Polysomnogram Test Involve?

After arriving at the sleep center in the evening, the patient can follow his or her normal bedtime routine. A polysomnography technologist will then place sensors on the patient’s scalp, temples, chest and legs. The sensors will be connected to a computer by wires that are long enough to allow the patient to move around in bed. A small clip will be placed on the patient’s finger or ear to measure blood oxygen levels.

The patient will stay overnight in a comfortable room similar to a hotel room. The sleeping area will be equipped with a low-light camera and audio system, allowing the technologist to monitor the patient from outside the room, continually checking his or her:

  • Brain waves
  • Eye movements
  • Heart rate
  • Breathing patterns
  • Blood oxygen levels
  • Body positions
  • Chest, abdominal and limb movements
  • Snoring and other sleep sounds

During the polysomnogram test, the technologist may ask the patient to try a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine for sleep apnea. A PAP machine consists of a tight-sealing nosepiece that continually delivers a gentle stream of air to enhance breathing and keep the airways open during sleep.

Although some patients have trouble dozing off in the unfamiliar surroundings of a sleep center, a full night’s sleep is not required to achieve an accurate polysomnogram test result.

The state-of-the-art Sleep Disorders Center at Tampa General Hospital offers comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services for patients with sleep disorders. We are proud to be the first center in the U.S. to be accredited by the American Academies of Sleep Medicine (AASM).