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What if I Can’t Sleep During a Sleep Study?

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If your doctor has suggested that you participate in a sleep study, you may be worried about what exactly to expect. While some people participate in at-home sleep studies, oftentimes these tests are conducted in labs or sleep centers. The idea of sleeping in a lab sounds pretty daunting, right? 

In this article, we’ll take you through sleep study preparations, what you should expect during your sleep study, and we’ll give you some suggestions to help you sleep during this test. We’ll also address other common questions that might arise regarding sleep studies. 

How to Prepare for a Sleep Study

Before you partake in a sleep study, there are several different ways you can prepare. If you are participating in an in-lab sleep test, you may want to pack a bag1 with items that you’d typically bring to a hotel. For example, you might pack medications, pajamas, and even your own blanket or pillow1

Along with packing a bag, you’ll want to prepare for your sleep study by avoiding certain practices and items. You shouldn’t wear jewelry, a hairpiece, or a wig1. You also should not take a nap on the day of your sleep study1. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid caffeine and alcohol2 consumption prior to your sleep study. 

Finally, you may want to keep a sleep diary or journal in the weeks that precede your sleep study. A sleep diary3 allows you to see your sleep patterns after you’ve recorded a sufficient number of nights of sleep. This journal is a great tool for you to collect information to provide your doctor with3. Your doctor can then use your sleep diary in tandem with the results of your sleep study in order to potentially diagnose you with a sleep disorder. 

What to Expect During a Sleep Study

When you arrive at your in-lab sleep study, you’ll meet with a sleep technician who will be monitoring you throughout the night. They’ll attach sensors to your head and body4, along with an elastic belt around your chest to measure breathing. You might also have to wear a finger clip that will monitor your oxygen levels4

After being hooked up to all of the machines and sensors, your sleep technician will leave you in the room, and you can use your phone or read a book, doing whatever you typically do before you fall asleep. If you need to use the restroom5 during your sleep study, you’ll have a way to contact the sleep technician, and they will unhook you from the sensors. 

About two weeks after your sleep study, your doctor will receive the results and will be able to guide you further in terms of treatment4

What to Do If You Can’t Sleep During Your Sleep Study

If you can’t sleep during a sleep study, there are several ways you can help yourself fall asleep. 

First, you may want to bring a book from home to read before bed. Reading before bed has a multitude of benefits, one of which is that it relaxes you. During an in-lab sleep study, you’re in an unfamiliar environment that may not be the most relaxing, so reading a book could calm your brain and lull you to sleep.

Along with a book, you may want to bring your own pillow, blanket, or stuffed animal from home, as we mentioned earlier. Again, these items will ideally bring you comfort and help you fall asleep more easily.

If none of these comfort items help you sleep, your sleep technician may give you a sleeping aid6, such as a melatonin supplement or Benadryl. Make sure you consult your sleep technician if it takes you far longer than it normally does for you to fall asleep. 

Additionally, the Mayo Clinic Health System7 explains that, during your sleep study, you don’t need to worry if you get fewer hours of sleep than you normally do. You also shouldn’t worry if you don’t sleep as well overall7. They say these differences shouldn’t impact the results of your sleep test7

Common Questions About Trouble Sleeping During a Sleep Study

How many hours of sleep do you need for a sleep study?

There is not a specific number of hours of sleep required for a sleep study5. However, the more sleep you get, the better, because that means there will be more data for your doctor to observe5. The number of hours you typically sleep at night should be sufficient.

What should you not do before a sleep study?

Before your sleep study, you should not nap, and you should also avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol1,2. This way, your sleep will accurately reflect your typical sleep patterns and disruptions.

Can I take a sleeping pill before my sleep study?

You should not take a sleeping pill before your sleep study. Ideally, you’ll be able to fall asleep without the help of a medication or supplement. However, if you can’t sleep during your sleep study, the sleep technician may give you a sleeping aid, like melatonin or Benadryl6. It is important that you do not take one of these supplements or medications without the approval of the sleep technician.

Final Word of Advice

Now that you know how to prepare for a sleep study and what to expect, you will hopefully be more at ease during your sleep study, which will hopefully help you sleep with more ease. However, if you still can’t sleep, we hope some of our suggestions can help you eventually fall asleep in a lab or sleep center. 

As always, make sure you consult with your doctor if you’re interested in participating in a sleep study or if you have specific questions regarding the sleep study in which you’ll participate. 

Emma Cronan

Emma Cronan


About Author

Emma is an Editorial Intern for Sleep Advisor. She collaborates with the editor and staff writers to come up with article ideas, create article outlines, and write for the website.

Combination Sleeper


  1. “What to Bring for an Overnight Sleep Study”. Richmond University Medical Center. Webpage accessed September 11, 2024. 
  2. “Polysomnography (sleep study)”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified February 17, 2024.,of%20some%20sleep%20disorders%20worse. 
  3. “Keeping a Sleep Journal”. UNC Chapel Hill Campus Health. Webpage accessed September 11, 2024. 
  4. “What Happens in a Sleep Study?”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed September 11, 2024. 
  5. “Sleep Study Frequently Asked Questions”. Penn Medicine Princeton Health. Webpage accessed September 11, 2024. 
  6. “What If I Can’t Sleep During a Sleep Study?”. Jacksonville Sleep Center. 2020.
  7. “8 common sleep study questions”. Mayo Clinic Health System. 2022.