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Sleep Disorders Resources & FAQs

Do you have questions about snoring or other sleep problems? Not sure if you should see a sleep medicine specialist? At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we’re here to help you navigate treatment options and next steps so you can focus on getting a better night’s rest. 

Start your journey to better sleep

  • Step 1: Talk to your provider. Your primary care provider or a sleep specialist will evaluate your medical history and sleep symptoms, and you may even talk to your sleep partner about problems during your sleep. Your provider can refer you to our sleep disorders centers for further evaluation. You may also schedule an appointment at our sleep centers without a referral.
  • Step 2: Share details about your health and sleep patterns. Before your sleep study, you’ll complete a comprehensive questionnaire about your general health, medications and sleeping habits. Our staff uses this information to evaluate your symptoms.
  • Step 3: Schedule and undergo a sleep study. If our staff and your physician believe that your symptoms indicate a possible sleep disorder, we’ll schedule you for a sleep study.

Sleep apnea assessment

Do you have trouble sleeping or think you might have a sleep disorder?

Sleep study FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about preparing for an overnight sleep test in our sleep lab:

  • Bring all your usual medications, pajamas or comfortable sleep clothes (at a minimum, shorts for men and a loose-fitting top and shorts for women), along with all your toiletries. Sleeping naked isn’t allowed; we can provide a hospital gown if needed. You’re welcome to read a book or watch TV or movies. Please remember to take everything you bring with you when you leave.

  • We request that you don’t bring work with you! Cellphones must be turned off when your study begins. We ask that you remove your wristwatch while the study is being conducted. Please remove nail polish from one of your index fingers, as well as makeup or facial creams and excess hair products.

  • No. We request that you have your evening meal prior to your arrival. Please avoid alcohol and caffeine. If you’ll be staying for a day study the following day, your breakfast and lunch will be served.

  • Yes, they can visit during your setup, but will be required to leave when it’s time to turn out the lights.

  • Yes. In some cases, the parent/guardian doesn’t need to stay with the patient the entire night, but they must accompany the patient through the admitting procedure. However, children under age 13 are normally required to have one parent/guardian spend the entire night. A rollaway bed will be provided for the parent/guardian.

  • Yes, in most cases, but please be sure to discuss your medications with your sleep physician. Bring your medication with you, and if you require a snack to take with your medication, please bring that as well. Tell your technician all the medications you’ll be taking during your test. A refrigerator is available if needed.

  • No. If you feel that this may be a problem, please tell your sleep physician. A nicotine patch can be prescribed for you to wear during your time here.

  • A technologist will orient you to your room and give you information about what will happen during your study. You’ll be set up for your study with wires taped and glued (washable) to your head, chest and upper back, abdomen and shins. These wires are then connected to our computer network, lights are shut off, and the technician from a room down the hall monitors you. The room is dark and quiet. There is an infrared camera in the room for safety. There is also an intercom if you need to speak with the technician during the study.

  • Lights out is approximately 10 to 10:30 p.m.

  • Most insurance companies require eight hours of testing, so if lights out is at 10 p.m., your technician will wake you up at 6 a.m. These times may vary based on your individual testing.

  • Most people are able to fall asleep. If you’re having a problem falling asleep, a nurse can administer a sleeping aid (pill). This won’t interfere with your test.

  • The wires are designed to tolerate a lot of tugging. If a wire does come off, your technician can quickly reattach it.

  • You’ll inform your technician that you need to get up. Your technician will enter your room and disconnect you from the computer network. This only takes a few seconds.

  • Yes, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled. If a follow-up appointment was made for you at the time you scheduled your study, please keep that appointment. During the appointment, you’ll review your study results with your sleep physician. 

Sleep apnea FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about sleep apnea and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP):

  • CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It’s a small electric pump that delivers pressurized air through a mask over your nose. CPAP prevents your airway from closing while you sleep.

  • Durable medical equipment (DME) vendors dispense CPAP machines. Our staff will be glad to assist you in determining which DME vendor is right for you. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health can provide you with a CPAP machine if you desire. Medicare and most insurance companies pay for rental of CPAP machines until it’s clear that this device is right for you. At that point, they’ll purchase it for you and apply all the rental fees toward the purchase price.

  • Yes, however most insurance companies won’t reimburse for a CPAP machine purchased from a vendor on the internet. If you know what you need/want and you’re paying cash, this might be your best option.

  • Masks come in all shapes and sizes. There is no best mask, although there are some that work better or are more durable than others. These masks should be custom-fitted and changed if they’re uncomfortable. Most masks cover only the nose, but mouth breathers prefer masks that cover the nose and mouth. Your physician and your DME vendor will assist you in picking a CPAP and fitting you with a mask.

  • Some masks work better than others for side sleeping, but no masks work well for stomach sleepers.

  • There are masks that work better for claustrophobic patients. Discuss this with your physician.

  • Discomfort from the mask or the sensation of difficulty exhaling against pressure are the main side effects of CPAP. Your mask can be refitted, and most patients get used to breathing against the pressure. Nasal congestion or dryness, as well as mouth dryness, are other side effects that your physician can usually treat.

  • Most patients find it difficult to use a CPAP machine when they have a bad cold. 

  • Most CPAP machines are very quiet. Bed partners usually prefer the "white noise" from CPAP to the loud noise associated with snoring.

  • Unless you have severe heart or lung disease, there’s no harm going without CPAP for a night. Many patients like the way it makes them feel so much that they wouldn’t dare go a night without using it.

  • Most patients make this decision for themselves. If a CPAP machine makes you feel a lot better, you’ll go to great lengths to take it with you. The CPAP machine is fairly portable; if you’re traveling by plane, put it in your carry-on luggage. There are some new devices on the market that are tiny and fit in a briefcase. It’s not clear how reliable or durable they are.

  • Sleep apnea and CPAP are so common that these devices are easily recognized as harmless by airport security personnel. Your physician will give you a letter of medical necessity to carry with your CPAP machine. 

  • Although most insurance companies will pay for a replacement mask as often as every three months, you won’t usually need a new mask that often. The replacement schedule depends on your specific mask. 

  • Most patients wash the hose, humidifier chamber, and mask in soap and hot water once a week. They wipe the part of the mask that touches the skin daily. The headgear should be washed periodically. You don’t need to sterilize your equipment. You shouldn’t soak it in chlorine or vinegar solutions. Filters need to be changed periodically depending on your particular CPAP and the quality of air in your home.

  • The humidifier is only for your comfort and doesn’t affect the treatment of your apnea. The need for humidity varies depending on your local climate. The heater increases the moisture content of the air if needed. Distilled water is only necessary if you have a high mineral content in your home's water supply.

  • It’s a good idea to see your physician one month after starting CPAP. Your physician will determine additional follow-up appointments. Once you’re stable, yearly appointments are a good idea.

  • Generally, all you need to bring is your CPAP "smart card." However, if you’re having problems with your CPAP, or have a specific style of CPAP without a "smart card," please bring the CPAP machine to your appointment. Remember to drain the humidification tank before you move your machine.

  • In general, we don’t repeat sleep studies unless there has been a significant change in your weight, it’s been more than five years since your last study, or you’re doing poorly with your CPAP machine.

Insomnia treatment FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about insomnia treatment with shared medical appointments (SMA):

  • Insomnia treatment with SMA is done in a group setting because some of the recommendations that we make will be difficult. Knowing that others will be attempting these recommendations can be motivating and provide encouragement. Our clinical impression is that treating insomnia in this format is more effective than individual treatment in the traditional office setting.

  • Each patient sets personal goals; the insomnia treatment with SMA is designed to help each patient achieve those goals. For some patients, medications will continue to play an important role in treating insomnia. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, our goal is to help patients become less anxious about their sleep and feel more confident in their ability to sleep better again.

  • This is a situation in which we encourage patients to consider SMA. Certainly, a physical problem such as sleep apnea can be the cause of awakenings. However, once awake, the conditioned elements of insomnia are generally what perpetuate the insomnia. If we can resolve the insomnia and this improves CPAP tolerance, patients generally note significant benefits in daytime well-being.

Links and resources

Find a sleep specialist near you

If you have symptoms of a sleep disorder, such as snoring or excessive daytime sleepiness, our sleep medicine specialists can help.