It’s 5 a.m. when they knock. The door opens, flooding your room with fluorescent light. You can’t really move because you are tangled up in cords, so you just wait for the test administrator to come over and start removing electrodes from you (25 in all) one by one.
No, this isn’t the scene from a horror film, but it is the end of a sleep study.
I’ll start from the beginning. Due to a variety of symptoms (you can check out a list of sleep apnea symptoms here), my doctor referred me for a sleep study.
I had heard about sleep apnea before. However, I didn’t think much of it until I read the startling statistics about how much it can decrease your life expectancy, cause all sorts of heart problems, strokes, and other things.
So, I scheduled a sleep study at the local hospital’s sleep center through my local health care system.
What To Know About a Sleep Study
I read a few things online but wasn’t really sure what to expect. If you’re curious or are scheduled for one, here are my top 13 things to know about a sleep study, including the cost.
1. Sleep Study Cost
This is a financial blog, so let’s start with the costs. In total, the hospital charged $3,750 for the study. This doesn’t count the doctor appointments leading up to or following the study.
Just the eight hours I spent overnight cost nearly $4,000. Due to the contract with my health insurance provider, the “allowed amount” by insurance was about $2,230.
Since I have an HSA with my insurance, I have a high deductible, meaning I am responsible for the entirety of these charges. This is one of the reasons insurance can be so beneficial. The insurance company essentially negotiated a 40% discount for me.
2. Sleep Study Check-In Time
You check-in at a later time than a regular doctor’s appointment, between 8 or 9 p.m. at my clinic. Then, you have a few minutes to put on pajamas.
After that, the sleep technologist starts hooking you up to various electrodes.
There are a lot of electrodes. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t 25 electrodes hooked up all over my body.
There were a few on each leg, some on my shoulder/chest, multiple on my chin (to sense for clenching), multiple near my eyes (to sense eye movement), one on my throat (to check for snoring), and many on my skull.
It took probably 30 minutes for the sleep technologist to put all of these electrodes on.
4. Pre-Sleep Bathroom Break
Then, you have a chance to go to the bathroom before you get hooked up in the “bedroom.”
5. The Sleep Study Room
My room was a basic large hospital room. However, instead of a normal hospital room, it had a double bed, a tv, and a nightstand. Nothing too fancy.
6. Getting Hooked Up
When they hook the electrodes up to the computer equipment in the room, they also attach something to your finger (I think a pulse oximeter to check your heart rate and your blood oxygen level) and to your nose (to see if you are breathing through your nose or mouth.)
They also attached a stomach strap and chest strap to monitor breathing patterns.
The cords running from the electrodes to the various parts of your body are not very long. I wasn’t able to comfortably turn over to the opposite side during the night. They want you to sleep on your back for at least some of the night.
8. Falling Asleep
The only first-person account I read of a sleep study was Amy Poehler’s. She said it didn’t take her too long to fall asleep.
I’m not sure what “too long” is, but I usually fall asleep in 5 minutes. At the sleep study, it took me well over an hour.
I started thinking about what would happen when I needed to use the bathroom. I also wondered what exactly the electrodes were able to sense in my brain. Could they tell whether I was happy/sad/annoyed? Whether I was anxiously thinking and making lists? Whether I was recalling a memory? Or letting my mind drift?
Needless to say, it was some time before I fell asleep.
9. Bathroom Breaks During the Sleep Study
When you need to go to the bathroom, you push a call button. Then, someone comes in to unhook you. (This turned out to be an easier process than I anticipated since they could take part of the computer off rather than unhook 25 cords).
Unfortunately, there were no ensuite bathrooms at my clinic, so I had to walk down a very bright hallway and turn on a very bright light in the bathroom. I was awake for a solid hour after that.
10. CPAP Machines
I was told that if I stopped breathing more than 20 times an hour, they would come in and hook me up to a CPAP machine. This didn’t happen to me, so that was good.
11. Sleep Study Room Temperature
The room was freezing. I set the thermostat 2 degrees warmer than I have mine at home, but I was still frozen. (Likely because I have a large down comforter on my bed at home, and this bed had a flimsy blanket.)
I had ¾ length pants and a long sleeve shirt and socks, but I wished I had worn a sweatshirt.
12. Waking Up
Waking up at 5 a.m. was brutal. Perhaps they don’t do this at fancier sleep centers, but they said they only needed 8 hours of recording (even though maybe I slept for five during the study).
Had I known this, I would have taken a different start time so I could have slept later.
13. Getting Unhooked
It only took about 5 minutes to take off all of the electrodes. Then I was free to go.
The Bottom Line
Note that sleep study costs are likely to vary by location. I live in a large metropolitan city in the upper Midwest.
Watch for more posts about medical care expenses this month.
Have you ever had a sleep study done? What were the costs?