A sleep laboratory is a specialized center that conducts sleep studies. Sleep labs may be a department that is incorporated into a hospital or clinic. They may also stand alone as a separate building, and they are sometimes even set up in hotels. Sleep labs may be accredited centers, which means they have met the standards of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
In general, a sleep lab has multiple bedrooms that are set up to conduct sleep studies. These studies are generally not for research or scientific purposes. Instead, they are diagnostic or therapeutic studies. The sleep lab is the place you might go to undergo the gold standard diagnostic test for sleep called a polysomnogram.
Polysomnography is used to diagnose common sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome. You might also undergo multiple sleep latency testing or maintenance of wakefulness testing at a sleep lab. In addition, you may be started on treatment for a sleep disorder and monitored.
You will sleep in a bedroom that may appear like any other - with the exception of some discreet equipment that monitors and records your sleep. This monitoring includes audio and visual recording. There is usually a nearby central monitoring location where the sleep technicians ensure the quality of the sleep studies.
Most participants spend one or two nights having their sleep assessed. The results are typically discussed when you next meet with your sleep doctor.