If your AME has required you to have a sleep study, the FAA has specified two options for diagnostic testing:
If it is determined that a sleep study is necessary, it must be either a Type I laboratory polysomnography or a Type II (7 channel) unattended home sleep test (HST) that provides comparable data and standards to laboratory diagnostic testing.*
This article will explain the differences between these two types of sleep studies so you can make an informed choice.
1. Type I laboratory polysomnography; i.e., an in-lab sleep study
You will need to spend a full night in a sleep laboratory. A sleep technologist will “hook you up,” i.e., prepare you for the study, by attaching a number of sensors to your body. The technologist will use an abrasive paste to prepare areas on your scalp for EEG (brain wave) electrodes that will allow the doctor to determine whether you’re awake or asleep and, if asleep, what stage of sleep you’re in. Sensors applied by your eyes will help determine when you’re in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. There will also be a sensor on your chin. Several EKG leads will be applied to your chest and other sensors will be applied to your legs. You will wear two stretchy belts, one around your chest and another around your abdomen. There will be an oxygen monitor probe on one finger. Lastly, you will wear a nasal cannula and “thermistor” in your nose that measure air flow. An infrared camera records your body movements and behaviors. A technologist will be monitoring you throughout the night. The photo below shows what a typical in-lab sleep study involves:
2. Type II unattended home sleep tests
A Type II home sleep study is self-administered and performed in your home. The most typical version of a Type II home sleep study involves the following sensors:
Typically only one night of data is needed. The photo below depicts a typical Type II home sleep test setup:
For further information see the FAA’s webpage on Decision Considerations Disease Protocols, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
*FAA.gov, Obstructive Sleep Apnea Specification Sheet B Assessment Request
Dr. Joseph Krainin is the founder of Singular Sleep, the first-ever completely virtual sleep center. He is double board-certified in Neurology and Sleep Medicine and is based in the Jacksonville, FL area. Dr. Krainin graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine and received his Sleep Medicine training at the world-renowned Michal Aldrich Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Michigan. He has been practicing medicine for 18 years and sleep apnea is his main area of interest. He is a sought-after lecturer and media commentator and is considered to be a thought-leader in the field of traumatic brain injury-related sleep disorders. Dr. Krainin has cultivated a niche specialty in managing pilots with sleep apnea. He is married and the father of three young children. He is not a pilot himself but has been hang-gliding and skydiving before. He hopes to take a flying lesson someday. Dr. Krainin is also a board-certified sleep physician and the Founder of Singular Sleep, a virtual sleep clinic that offers Type 2 home sleep tests.