A sleep lab or sleep clinic is a facility which has been designed for the purpose of studying sleep disorders. Because the study of such disorders requires getting people to go to sleep, a sleep lab is designed to be a comfortable place to sleep in addition to being a scientific facility. These labs are often attached to major universities and hospitals, although in some cases they are entirely separate entities.
People enter the lab when they participate in a sleep study. There are two reasons to participate in a sleep study: to diagnose specific conditions, or to contribute to general advancements in the field of sleep research. In the instance of a specific condition, a patient will be asked to go to sleep lab so that technicians can collect data on the patient's sleep patterns to look into problems as varied as sleep apnea and snoring. For more general studies, people agree to be studied so researchers can learn more about sleep.
Most sleep labs are divided into a number of patient rooms which are designed much like hotel rooms, with beds and basic amenities to make sleep more natural and comfortable. Depending on the design, patients may have private bathrooms, or they may use shared bathroom facilities, and many labs also have shower facilities so people can go directly from the lab to work in the morning.
Patient rooms in sleep labs are typically equipped with normal beds, and equipment is often hidden in cupboards or the walls to make the room feel more natural. The lab may also include a lab for the analysis of samples, along with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine and other diagnostic equipment which may be used as part of the sleep study.
Depending on what is being studied, a patient may wear various monitors as he or she sleeps to look at things like brain activity, heart activity, changes in blood pressure, and so forth. Generally, a sleep technician works with the patient when he or she arrives, explaining what will happen and the purpose of the study and ensuring that the patient feels comfortable. After the sleep study has been completed, the patient's information will be sent to his or her doctor, or compiled in research material used to study sleep.