Few things disrupt our days as much as poor sleep. If you’re having sleep issues and have seen a doctor who suspects you may have a sleep disorder, he or she may suggest you see a sleep physician. Properly diagnosing a sleep disorder often requires an overnight sleep study in a nearby sleep center.  

An overnight stay at a local sleep center may sound daunting, but if you follow these 6 helpful sleep study preparation tips you’ll improve your chances of better sleep during the study. 

Rest assured, you’re not alone, 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder. Getting checked to see if you’re one of them is vital for your health and well-being. Using these recommended techniques to prepare for sleep will help you get through the process smoothly.

1. Use the 4-7-8 Breathing Method

The 4-7-8 breathing method will help you relax so you can fall asleep easily.. You can use this method whenever you feel stressed or anxious. 

To do the 4-7-8 breathing method:

  • Start by placing the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth
  • Next, exhale completely from your mouth while making a whoosh sound
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose while counting to 4 in your head
  • Hold your breath, and count to 7
  • Next, open your mouth and exhale completely with a whoosh sound, then count to 8
  • Repeat at least 3 times

2. What to Bring for a Restful Sleep

Bring items you believe will help you sleep such as your favorite your favorite book, or comfortable sleeping clothes such as pajamas or a T-shirt and shorts. We do however recommend that you don’t wear nylon or other “slippery” materials.  

Make sure to bring anything else that will help you feel comfortable such as toiletries, an overnight bag, and prescribed medications. The goal is for you to have a comfortable, restful night’s sleep. 

Avoid having any caffeine after lunchtime, so it doesn’t affect your sleep. Caffeine can be found in soft drinks, chocolate, energy drinks, coffee, and tea. 

Feel free to bring a snack or a drink, and if you’re diabetic or have another medical condition that requires snacks, please let your sleep technologist know. 

Anything with backlighting such as electronic readers, tablets or video games you’ll want to leave at home. Ideally, you’ll leave your smartphone off, as the blue light given off by these devices causes your brain to stop producing melatonin, a chemical that helps you sleep. 

3. Sleep Aids

You should bring all medications that you normally take at night or first thing in the morning. This includes prescription medication as well as over-the-counter medication like aspirin or heartburn medication. 

Talk with your provider before your sleep study about any medications you’re taking or any concerns you may have about sleep aids. There are a few medications that might disrupt a sleep study. 

4. Visualization

If you’re feeling stressed out and find yourself not able to fall asleep, try visualizing a place that makes you feel relaxed and happy.

 Be as specific as possible with your visualization. For example, imagine yourself lying peacefully on a hammock near a still, blue lake. It’s early September, but the weather hasn’t turned cold. The sun is bright and warm on your skin and the sky is azure and cloudless. You can smell a hint of cedar from a nearby crackling fire. 

Visualization will help keep your mind busy with happy thoughts instead of focusing on any nervousness you might have.

5. Reducing Insomnia

Even if you don’t normally suffer from insomnia, some people experience anxiety and ultimately insomnia during a sleep study. If this happens, it’s perfectly normal and isn’t cause for alarm. 

This won’t prevent equipment readings or the collection of information needed from the study. Sleep study equipment is very sophisticated and will gather the information needed even if you don’t feel you slept as you normally do.

To help prevent insomnia however, there are techniques that can help. 

When you’re ready to go to sleep, you may find you need to lie in your typical sleep position, such as your side. If side sleeping is  more comfortable to you, don’t feel pressured to lie on your back. It’s more important that you get into a comfortable sleeping position. 

Consider using relaxation techniques if you’re having trouble falling asleep. Many find focused breathing patterns, guided imagery, and muscle relaxation helpful. You can also try distracting yourself by remembering a movie you recently saw or a recent dream. 

It’s also helpful to understand the stages of sleep. You can use your sleep cycle to help you get into a deep sleep or get good REM sleep by properly calculating your sleep cycles and total amount of sleep time. 

If you wake up in the middle of the night however it’s important that you don’t check your phone or your watch. This can create anxiety and make it more difficult for you to fall back asleep. Turning on lights to read or watch television may also keep you from falling back asleep, so avoid it if possible.

We also recommend you don’t eat a large meal before the study which can keep you awake. You’ll want to abstain from napping the day of a sleep study as well because it will often make it more challenging to fall asleep. 

6. Practice Journaling

If you find your thoughts racing circles through your mind, journaling helps. Have a notebook and pen or pencil ready, and write down all the positive occurrences that happened during the day or a list of things you’re grateful for. Also, use it to write down the feelings you are having about your sleep test. It may sound simple, but it really does work. 

If your worrying is related to activities or responsibilities in your daily life, use the quiet time to write down a plan on how you’re going to tackle them. It’s also useful to write down any repetitive thoughts you’re having or things you don’t want to forget when you wake up. It’s both relaxing and productive.

7. Resting Easy During the Study

When you arrive, let the technician know about any worries you might have before going into the study. Feel free to ask questions and let them know if you have any specific needs like a bedside glass of water or extra blankets. The technicians will make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.

The sleep specialists will begin preparing you for the study. You will have small sensors applied to your body. Some may be applied with glue which can easily be removed with soap and water. The sensors are painless, and they won’t keep you awake. 

If the sensors feel initially uncomfortable, don’t worry! Most people get used to them after a couple of minutes. If you continue to feel anxious or uncomfortable with the sensors, let your sleep technician know. They’ve overseen thousands of sleep studies and can troubleshoot minor discomforts easily.  

Once your sensors are set up, the technician will ask you to move different parts of your body to make sure the sensors are working properly.

If you have to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, just let your technician know. They’ll come in and unplug your sensors to use the restroom. Upon returning to bed, they’ll get you settled back in and hooked up. 

If it is determined early in the study that you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the sleep technologist may fit you with a mask and CPAP machine to determine what level of treatment is required to address the sleep apnea. This benefits you in two ways because you’re combining two sleep studies into a single night which saves you both time and money. 

If you feel anxious about wearing the mask, try to focus on your breathing and the sound of the CPAP machine to help you fall asleep. The machine quietly hums like a white noise generator. 

Next Steps for Your Sleep Study Preparation

While needing to do a sleep study might seem overwhelming, with the right sleep study preparation you can make it comfortable and productive. A one-night sleep study can lead to a lifetime of better sleep. Here’s some helpful information about How a Sleep Study Helps You Improve Your Health and Quality of Life.  If you’re suffering from poor sleep, the solution is just a consultation away. 

Are you ready to discover how a sleep specialist can help you? Contact Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee today and we can get you set up for better sleep. 

If you’re already scheduled for a sleep study, watch our video How to Get Prepared For Your Upcoming Sleep Study.