When Counting Sheep Doesn't Bring Sleep

Woman of color sleeping on her desk with close ups of an alarm clock and a coffee cup

Quality sleep is imperative for good physical and mental health. But it’s also one of the most-ignored health problems, even when inadequate sleep affects your work and home life.

Getting the right quantity and quality of sleep allows your body to function at its best. If you’ve experienced the symptoms below that haven’t improved with treatment, a polysomnography – or sleep study – might be your next step:

  • You can’t fall asleep.
  • You can’t stay asleep.
  • You wake up many times during your sleep cycle.
  • You wake up coughing or gasping for breath.
  • You snore or seem to stop breathing during sleep.
  • You often feel fatigued.

Open Your Eyes to Sleep Problems

You spend a third of your life at sleep, where your body refreshes physically and mentally. When that rejuvenation is interrupted, you feel the effects. With time, lack of quality sleep can worsen or contribute to:

  • Cardiac and metabolic disease
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weight gain

Your doctor may order a study as a deep-dive into your body’s sleep processes. Some are self-administered in your home. For the best results, however, your doctor will order an overnight (or over-day) study in an outpatient clinic.

As a diagnostic procedure, in-network sleep studies are covered by U-M Health Plans. Check your specific plan for copay/coinsurance and other information.

While You Were Sleeping…

Many are hesitant to sleep in a strange place while under observation. Today’s sleep centers feature patient rooms styled like bedrooms. You’re also encouraged to bring comforts such as pillows and your own pajamas.

When you arrive, a technologist will ask a series of questions, then attach several monitors to your head, chest and torso. These monitors will record heart, brain and lung activity as you sleep.

Even if your slumber is off, the monitors will likely record enough information during snatches of sleep. When the study ends after eight-to-10 hours, expect to shower before going to work or other activities. The monitors are attached with a putty-like substance that dissolves in soap and warm water.

Next Steps for Better Z’s

The study will give your doctor a snapshot of what is inhibiting your sleep. Depending on the condition – there are more than 100 sleep disorders – your treatment plan could include medication, specific therapy or assistance devices.

Learn More

MHealthy and Michigan Medicine have many resources to help you figure out how much sleep you need, improve your sleep hygiene and sound an early alarm on conditions such as sleep apnea. Or tune into “Shining a Light on the Importance of Sleep,” the March 25 episode of The Wrap, a Michigan Medicine employee podcast, to get started.

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