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


What if I can't sleep during a sleep study? This fear plagues many who cannot get a full night's sleep. In most situations, you can take something to help you sleep, such as Melatonin or a sleeping pill.

As a sleep study expert, I can firmly say this fear is widespread and not uncommon. Many patients are nervous going into the study, uncertain of what to expect, and afraid they won't be able to sleep on command.

To help ease your anxieties, we'll talk about some things that can help you get to sleep during the study, what you can expect, and what happens if you can only get a few hours in.

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

An inability to fall asleep during the sleep study is a significant concern for patients. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be an ordeal. 

Before you begin your sleep study, express your concerns to your doctor. Worrying over how much sleep you'll get is something they've experienced before. This fear won't surprise them; they'll probably have remedies to help you.

Techniques to Try

For some people, the idea of falling asleep while being watched and attached to medical equipment can be alarming. There are a few tips and techniques to keep in mind that may help you:

  • Sleep in your normal position.
  • You won't break the wires.
  • Try to relax your muscles consciously, starting at your shoulders and going to your feet.
  • Try some breathing techniques.

Sleep Aids

If you're still struggling to sleep, your doctor may approve of you taking a sleep aid. 

Melatonin is an over-the-counter medicine you can take if you can't sleep. Medical professionals do not recommend Benadryl or similar antihistamines as they can have undesirable side effects.

Your doctor may suggest another alternative, such as a prescribed sleeping pill, but something over the counter, such as Melatonin, will likely be sufficient. 

What Is a Sleep Study?

If your doctor scheduled you for a study, you're likely struggling with staying asleep or feeling rested after sleeping. You may be wondering, ‘what is a sleep study?’

A sleep study is also known as polysomnography. To determine if you have a sleep disorder doctors use this test to study your brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing, and leg and eye movements while sleeping to determine if you have a sleep disorder. 

Here are a few reasons why your doctor may ask you to take a sleep study:

  • Sleep apnea or sleep-related breathing disorder
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • Narcolepsy
  • REM sleep behavior disorder
  • Unusual sleep behaviors
  • Chronic insomnia

How Is a Sleep Study Run?

When it comes to how the study gets run, it's a non-invasive procedure.

You'll have approximately two dozen sensors placed against the skin of your head and body. The adhesive used is mild, so you won't have to worry about it being hard to remove later.

These wires get connected to a computer that will monitor you overnight. The wires are long and sturdy enough that you'll be able to move in bed and find a comfortable position.

A belt around your chest and waist will monitor your breathing, and a pulse ox on your finger will keep track of your oxygen levels.

The experience is designed to be as comfortable as possible; none of these devices should feel painful. If you experience discomfort, speak with your sleep tech right away.

If you're still concerned about "What if I can't sleep during a sleep study?" I have more suggestions that can get you ready.

What To Bring to a Sleep Study?


When it comes to what to bring to a sleep study, the list should be reasonably brief. The following are a few items to take along:

  • Comfortable pajamas
  • Clothes for the next day
  • Your own pillow
  • Any medications you may need to take at night
  • Any other must-have items that help you fall asleep

You don't need to take a lot with you, but plan for your sleep study like you're going to take a short trip to a hotel and prepare accordingly.

How To Prepare for a Sleep Study?

To banish any worries over "What if I can't sleep during a sleep study," there are some preparations you can manage the day of: 

  • Avoid coffee
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Do not nap
  • Wake up a little earlier so you're tired later on
  • Eat regularly, especially the meal before your test

A Little Sleep Is Okay

What if I can't sleep during a sleep study, or what if I can't sleep a lot during a sleep study? Both of these questions may be giving you a serious case of nerves.

Ultimately, it's okay if you don't sleep a full eight hours while undergoing a sleep study. Even getting a few hours of sleep may be enough to get your doctor what they need.

If they cannot get the information they need, that's okay too. It's also okay if you aren't able to sleep a wink. The sleep center will reschedule you; this is common for them.

And while rescheduling is disappointing, you'll have a significant advantage on your second visit. You'll already know everything that's going to happen, and for many returning patients, this is huge. It's far easier to relax then.

Before You Go

A sleep test can make anyone feel a little nervous. "What if I can't sleep during a sleep study?" It's a recurring thought that sometimes makes it harder for a patient to get some shut-eye during the study.

But it's okay; I've seen plenty of people who were nervous when they came in. Between the guidance of sleep center specialists, your doctors, and some tried and true techniques, you can eventually fall asleep. 

So if falling asleep during a sleep study is a concern for you, reach out to your doctor ahead of time. State your worries and ask them if there's anything they can recommend you do in preparation. They're there to help you.