A Simple Professional Guide to Understanding Your Sleep Study

Last Updated on 2 years

You might feel that the process of sleep apnea diagnosis is taking too long. Regardless, it helps when you know a few things about how it goes.

But first, you need to learn about the most challenging part of the diagnosis process- it’s known as the “sleep study.” Once you do, you’ll be prepared to accept your sleep study results.

Here are some tips about the last phases of the diagnosis. This includes learning how to calculate your sleep study score; it also involves learning how scoring services work.

Now, why don’t we get going?

How to Select a Sleep Study Scoring Service

First, are you dealing with credible people or institutions offering accredited services? Find out. This is particularly essential for anyone seeking a sleep study scoring service.

You can run through the list below to vet the specific service and determine if it meets the required standards:

  • Check Medical Certifications: Check whether the sleep doctor you want to consult possesses an M.D or D.O degree. Are they certified by the relevant board to practice sleep medicine? Find out.

Also, make sure your sleep doctor possess at least one or more of the following certifications:

  • Registered Sleep Technologist (RST)
  • Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT)
  • Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT)
  • Sleep Disorders Specialist (SDS)
  • Or Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT)

These certifications prove the practitioner is a qualified sleep technologist and can competently read the relevant sleep study scores.

  • Positive Reviews: Can you see any public reviews about this specific professional’s service? Are most of the reviews positive? This is crucial to determine the professional’s credibility; so, check.
  • Check References: Are there any good references for the possible sleep study scoring service you want to consult?

Visit other sleep centers that know about their services and find out. Use their feedback to determine if they’re a suitable option.

How to Understand Sleep Apnea Test Results

What Does AHI Scale Mean?

The AHI or RDI is- essentially- the first number you need to look for in a sleep apnea test result.  It’s otherwise known as the hypopnea or apnea index.

Generally, this is the key metric that experts use in determining if one suffers from sleep apnea or not.

The statistic basically counts the average number of hypopneas or apneas. In simple terms, hypopneas or apneas are respiratory events that typically cause a considerable decrease in the airflow the patient experiences on a given hour.

When you have a quick look at the number, you can judge where the patient falls on the standard sleep apnea severity scale.

How AHI Relates to Sleep Image Severity

Interestingly, apneas could be the most well-known characteristic of the “ordinary” sleep disorder. Apneas typically occur when the patient stops breathing completely for ten seconds or more.

However, hypopnea (a partial airflow cessation) can be equally hazardous. Note that RERAs (respiratory effort-related arousals) can also significantly disrupt sleep depth or breadth; however, they cannot be classified as hypopnea or apnea.

An accurate sleep study should be able to pick up instances of arousals or partial awakenings (arousal refers to excessive leg movement). When considering the available treatment options and assessing sleep quality, you should take this into account.

Determining Sleep Stages

At night, humans go through specific sleep stages. These are classified as N1, N2, N3, and REM sleep. Several times throughout the night, adults are known to cycle through these stages in that order.

Some sleep disorders can, however, disrupt this “normal” cycle and make it impossible for sufferers to enjoy normal, refreshing rest. As an example, sleep apnea can cause “arousals” that prevent sufferers from sinking into the deepest sleep stages they crucially need.

Sleep study involves using brain monitors to track which sleep stage the patient is experiencing. Technicians can then observe and record any irregularities.

Note that for about half the patients, sleep apnea becomes worse during the REM stage of sleep. This is according to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The Importance of Oxygen Desaturation (SaO2)

Patients who stop breathing during sleep do not get adequate (much-needed) oxygen into their bloodstream. Generally, a person’s oxygen saturation (SaO2) is measured as a specific percentage of the body’s (inhaled) oxygen capacity.

For those with severe sleep apnea, oxygen levels can fall to 60%  or less of the usual or ideal level; this means the patient absorbs a little over 50% of the oxygen required to function normally.

If the oxygen saturation goes below 95%, it means the brain and the body aren’t getting enough oxygen. Such a situation can cause serious cardiovascular problems and brain damage.

Happily, you can use the CPAP (or positive airway pressure) device to restore your breathing to normal- and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Final Steps

After going through the entire process (involving sleep study and sleep study test results), what next? The final steps generally depend on the patient’s circumstances and peculiar diagnosis. Regardless, be prepared for a few things:

For example, after undergoing the polysomnogram (overnight sleep study), you were likely tested for sleep apnea. Did you receive a sleep apnea diagnosis? The doctor might prescribe CPAP (positive airway pressure) therapy.

The doctor may also prescribe other modes of treatment (like minor surgical procedures or the use of mouthguards).

Otherwise, did they diagnose a different type of sleep disorder? You might have Narcolepsy, insomnia, RBD (REM behavior disorder), or PLMD (periodic limb movement disorder).

In these cases, the doctor may prescribe cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or medication.


Admittedly, it can be exhausting to follow the entire sleep apnea or similar diagnosis process. Nevertheless, after the consultation, you can choose the best treatment option and start on the road to recovery.

Have you started the diagnosis process? If not, it’s not too late; learn about what you need to do to get prepared.

We wish you a speedy recovery!

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