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The gold standard of sleep tracking: Polysomnography

Julia Park
Doctor looking at chart

As necessary as
sleep is for wellbeing and health, it can be amazingly difficult to get a good night’s rest! The American Sleep Apnea Association reports that in 2022, between 50 to 70 million American adults struggled with getting a good night’s sleep.

Not getting enough quality sleep doesn’t just make us feel grumpy and less productive — it can have widespread and life-changing consequences, from impairing our memory and ability to make good decisions, to heart disease, diabetes, reduced immunity, mental health issues, and more.

According to Muse's 2022 Brain Health Report, despite being recognized as the third most critical aspect of brain health by Americans, sleep ranked lowest on average. It emerged as the predominant struggle among Americans in maintaining a healthy brain, trailing behind memory and focus.

If you’re struggling with sleep, you may have wondered if there’s any way to get a closer look at your sleep patterns to figure out once and for all what you need to do to feel well rested. Good news — there is!

It’s called polysomnography (PSG)Since its advent in the early 20th century, its led to the creation of user-friendly, cost-effective, and highly accurate at-home wearable devices, like the Muse S EEG Headband, that place the power of PSGs directly in your hands.

Sleep tracking over the years

The idea of sleep medicine and sleep trackers is a relatively new concept. Before the 1950s, sleep experts and laymen alike viewed sleep as an automatic function that essentially turns the body off for a period. It was really with the invention of the  electroencephalogram (EEG) in 1924 by Hans Berger that our perspective on sleep states began changing.

EEG revolutionized our understanding of the sleeping brain

Through EEG (which measures electrical activity in the brain), we learned that the mind is anything but “turned off” when we sleep. EEG machines found that the brain experiences different patterns of activity as we sleep. Over time, we learned to identify these patterns, also called brainwaves, with five sleep stages: Awake, stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Stage 1 and stage 2 are considered non-REM, light sleep while stage 3 and REM are associated with deep sleep.

Altogether, the progression from stage 1 through REM sleep is called a sleep cycle. We go through between four to six sleep cycles a night, which last about 90 minutes each.

Polysomnography patient

What does a polysomnography (PSG) session look like?

A polysomnography (PSG) sleep study involves a variety of machines that record your body’s experience as you sleep. These measurements include:

  • EEG to measure brain activity
  • ECG to measure heart rate
  • EMG to measure muscle and leg movements
  • EOG to measure eye movements
  • SpO2 to measure blood oxygen levels
  • Respiratory rate

PSG sessions will usually take place in a lab or clinical setting. There, you’ll spend anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes with a lab technician who will place sensors near your heart (ECG), around your head (EKG), on your finger (SpO2), on your legs and chin (EMG), and on your face (EOG). These sensors then get hooked up to wires which transmit their electrical activity for later analysis by a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT).

These highly trained technicians pour through the PSG results and divide the data into 30-second intervals called epochs. After dividing the epochs, RPSGT’s will then ascribe a sleep stage to each epoch based on the standard scoring manual guidelines.

What can a PSG study test for?

After your PSG data has been analyzed and interpreted, you’ll be able to learn about:

  • How long it takes you to fall asleep (sleep onset latency)
  • The amount of time spent asleep out of the total time spent in bed (sleep efficiency)
  • How much time do you spend awake and in each of the four sleep stages (stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, and REM)
  • Your heart rate while sleeping
  • Whether you have obstructive sleep apnea and how severe it is

In this way, a PSG session can give you a much better idea of where things are going wrong for you and help diagnose sleep issues, so you can begin taking effective measures to improve your sleep.

Conditions a PSG session can help you identify include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • Circadian rhythms sleep-wake disorders
  • REM sleep behavior disorder

The challenges of PSG sessions

There’s no arguing that polysomnography stands undisputed as the gold standard of sleep monitors to track sleep. That being said, there are a few points to keep in mind if you’re considering a PSG session.

  • They’re expensive. Although prices range depending on the lab and where you live, polysomnography typically costs anywhere from $500 to $7000. Prices may be lower depending on how much your insurance provider is able to cover..
  • Accuracy of sleep quality. A PSG session will accurately detail the quality of your sleep. But it’s only capturing your sleep over the course of one night. It’s doing so in an unfamiliar environment, which can affect how comfortable you are and change your sleep quality. 

    For this reason, the data you get from your session may not accurately represent how you sleep most nights when you’re at home. Its findings are also limited by the fact that it’s more so taking a snapshot of one night of sleep rather than your sleep over the course of several nights or even months.

  • Data analysis can vary depending on the technician. You may think that because RPSGTs all follow the same diagnostic guidelines and the analysis of your results would be reliably consistent. However, several studies have shown this is not the case

    A recent study found that the same RPSGT will often score the same test differently when presented with the data on different occasions. While much of the data would likely be scored the same, the study found that there could be as much as a 10% difference between scoring done on the same data by the same technician on different days.

Woman wearing Muse S Headband to sleep

Experience the power of PSG at home with Muse’s portable EEG headset

Looking to get highly accurate data on your sleep without the price tag and limitations of PSG? The EEG-powered Muse S headband could be exactly what you’re looking for. 

With a highly accurate 86% detection rate of sleep patterns and a level of agreement with sleep experts and neuroscientists, the Muse S Headband offers reliable accuracy without ever having to leave your home.

With brainwave sensing electrodes strategically built into a plush headband designed for comfort, the Muse S Headband can provide you with sleep data and insights on:

  • Brainwave states
  • How much time you spend in each sleep stage
  • Heart rate
  • Respiratory rate
  • Your sleep positions
  • How much you move throughout the night

The benefits of this portable EEG-headband don’t end there. When paired with our app, you can access real-time neurofeedback with our Digital Sleeping Pills (DSP) program, that can help you fall and stay asleep through the night with greater ease. 

Are you ready to take your sleep to the next level and transform your life? Start your improved sleep journey with proven 20% improved sleep quality with the Muse S Headband today.

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