What exactly is a sleep laboratory?

A sleep laboratory is a medical institution serving to examine the sleep of patients (polysomnography).

It consists of a specially equipped patient room and an extra room with the monitoring and recording devices.

The recording of various body functions like brain waves, movement of the eyes, respiration, muscle tension and oxygen saturation of the blood is carried out during the night.

Based on these measured values an exact profile of the individual sleep phases (e.g. vigilambulism, REM-sleep, deep sleep, short wakening reactions) can be generated.

When is an examination at the sleep laboratory necessary?

The first place to go in case of sleep disorders and various other problems connected to the sleep is the family doctor. If he or she comes to the result that there is suspicion of a sleep disorder in need of treatment, he or she will refer the patient to a sleep laboratory for examination. An examination at the sleep laboratory is possibly necessary when the following symptoms occur:

  • Disorders falling asleep or sleeping through
  • Intense day tiredness, occasional dozing off
  • Microsleep while driving
  • Intense snoring
  • Nightly apnea
  • Restlessness and paresthesia in the legs (Restless Legs Syndrome)
  • Convulsion in the legs and other leg movements during the sleep

Which type of sleep disorders can be diagnosed and treated at the sleep laboratory?

Following are the most frequent sleep disorders and illnesses connected to the sleep in need of a diagnosis and therapy initiation at a sleep laboratory:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Central sleep apnea
  • Upper-Airway-Resistance-Syndrome
  • Hyperventilation syndrome
  • Restless-Legs-Syndrome (RLS)
  • Periodic leg movement (PLM)
  • Narcolepsy
  • Insomnia (falling asleep and seeping through disorder)

What happens to me during an examination at the sleep laboratory?

Various body signals during the sleep are recorded at a medical examination concerning the sleep (polysomnography, also known as “sleep division”) providing the doctor with important information about the quality of the sleep, possible sleep disorders or illnesses connected to the sleep. For example, the activity of the heart (ECG) and brain waves (EEG) are measured and your respiration, the activity of your breathing muscles, eye and leg movement during the sleep are recorded. For this purpose, small electrodes connected to a computer are attached to the body. These data will be evaluated by the doctor the following day and a diagnosis will be provided.

Is it possible to sleep well with the “cabling”?

Most patients sleep well despite the measuring electrodes. However, it is possible that the patient’s sleep is not as deep or shorter than usual based on the unaccustomed environment and the electrodes.  Normally this phenomenon called “first night effect” does not present a problem because a few hours of sleep are enough for an efficient sleep examination.

How long is a stay at the sleep laboratory?

One to two nights, the examination takes place in the first night, the following day the diagnosis is discussed with you. If you need a ventilator, you will stay at the sleep laboratory for a second night to adjust the required therapy pressure of your device. In some cases, additional examinations will take place during the day measuring your tiredness during the day resp. your vigilance.

What do i have to take along for the examination at the sleep laboratory?

You need a referral of your family doctor or specialist and your insurance card. Other than that, you take the same items you would take for a normal stay at a hospital. If you have any questions or if there are any lacks of clarity, our sleep laboratory staff can supply the necessary information.

What should i do in case of problems after the therapy initiation?

In this case your family doctor is your first contact person. If necessary, he will refer you to us. In case you have questions concerning spare parts and equipment of your ventilator, you should contact the manufacturer of your device. Address and telephone number can be found on the device and in the instruction manual. You need a prescription by your doctor to be sent to the manufacturer in order to have the costs refunded.

Does my insurance refund the costs for the ventilator?

Compulsory health insurance takes over the costs of the ventilator. You only bear the own contribution payment as you do when staying at a hospital. If you are privately insured, please ask your insurance company to what extend you will be refunded for the device.

Do i have to sleep with a ventilator every night?

Yes, because an obstructive sleep apnea cannot be cured, only treated. This means that your upper respiratory system has to be kept open by the pressure of the device every night. Otherwise the apnea will reoccur. However, there are exceptions, for example, if your nose is clogged because of a cold. Then you should sleep without the device until the cold is gone. You may use nose drops or sprays to clear your nose. These congestant drops and sprays should only be used for a couple of days because they can harm the mucous membrane of your nose.

Can a ventilation therapy cause side effects?

Yes, there are side effects, but normally they can be controlled well. For example, the mucous membranes can be dried out by the constant airflow. In such cases a humidifier can be attached to the device. Some patients complain about acid regurgitation and about the feeling of being stuffed in the morning. These troubles are a result of swallowing additional breathing air und usually disappear after a short period of time. Furthermore, the ventilation mask can leave pressure marks on the face which can be very unpleasant. In these cases the sleep laboratory team can prescribe a mask in a different size or of a different type.