a person going through a sleep study showing them with wires attached to their head and then showing them wearing a CPAP

The Scoop on Sleep Studies to Prepare for Bariatric Surgery

Last updated: September 2022

One of the many things one must do when getting bariatric surgery is to consult a pulmonologist, who will likely perform a sleep study. It is not the most glamorous thing I've ever participated in, but apparently, it's necessary.

Why sleep studies?

Despite my long-term involvement in medical patient communities and the indisputable fact that no diagnosis discriminates, in my head, I still struggle with the fact that, as a young adult, I had to participate in a sleep study.

I still associated this with something that only older people did or needed. However, the reality is that many people who are overweight experience sleep apnea and other sleep diagnoses that cause problems getting a restful and high-quality night's sleep.

Sleep apnea diagnosis

My father had sleep apnea, so I wasn't too surprised when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. There are some genetic as well as environmental factors associated with the diagnosis. However, it is a relatively new field of study, and many, to my knowledge, have not quite been identified yet. Still, my dad was a big guy with type 2 diabetes and many other common medical conditions. It made sense to me that I would also have similar medical conditions.

My experiences in the sleep studies

Pandemic-related restrictions

Due to the pandemic, I was not permitted to bring much of the things that give me comfort at night. I could not bring my wedge pillow, so I had to settle for their squishy pillows. In addition, the bed was immensely uncomfortable, somehow only a half-step better than the typical in-patient hospital beds that usually make my back hurt so badly that I cannot move the next day without pain. I couldn't bring any of my comfy, snuggly blankets either.

I went with a small bag with my journal, a couple of pens, a book, my phone with charger and stand, my evening meds, and my 52-ounce insulated Bubba mug with water.

Helpful staff

The nurse administering my study both times I went was so helpful and kind. She went out of her way to ensure I was comfortable and had enough cold water and ice. She even snapped a few photos for me so that I could use them in the article I meant to write immediately afterward.

Liz participating in a sleep study

Setup of the room

I was given time to get comfortable in my private room. It had a recliner, an extra wide waiting room chair, a bed with 2 side tables, a huge mounted flat screen television, and monitoring equipment. The equipment included a camera mounted above the television so they could see you as you slept. Thankfully, the nurse immediately pointed it out and explained why it was there, which somewhat dispelled any of the Dateline investigation-type vibes that could have sprung into my head. The room also had a private bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower.

Going for 2 sleep study visits

Each visit had a different purpose. The first visit was the baseline study to see exactly where you were naturally when sleeping. The second was to adjust your airflow and calibrate your "prescription."

Each time I was comfortably in my pajamas, the nurse would get me hooked up to the equipment and help me get into bed. Having a urostomy, I sleep with a foley bag attached as well, so she would help hang that on the side of the bed once I was in it.

I'd settle into the bed to watch TV while sipping water. Eventually, the television would cut off—an automated room feature typically outside my routine. I'd subsequently drift off to sleep.

Better sleep than I thought

Surprisingly, I didn't sleep poorly compared to how I usually sleep in the hospital, but the Sleep Center was quiet. It was like all the rooms were extensively insulated, and I didn't hear much outside of my room.

The following morning, the nurse would come in to help me wake up by removing all of the monitoring equipment. I took time to get myself together, and I left.

Taking care of myself afterwards

To make up for the fact that I had to sleep in a strange, uncomfortable place, I'd treat myself to breakfast on the way home before I began the rest of my day. Luckily for me, I am a remote worker, so if I was worn down, I could take a break or sign off early so I could get rest in a way that was more comfortable for me.

Another step towards bariatric surgery

Out of all the hoops I had to jump through to get my bariatric surgery, this was one of the least intrusive and easiest to handle. I'm not thrilled that I now come with extra hardware, but hopefully, I'll be able to ditch the BiPap machine once I lose weight. Gastric sleeve, here I come!

Have you ever done a sleep study? Share your experience below!

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