Please welcome Dr. Anthony DiMarco, MD, Medical Director and Professor of Physiology at Case Western Reserve University
Maintenance Wakefulness Testing

Finding Sleep Disorders with Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing

Finding Sleep Disorders with Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing

We have all experienced that feeling of falling asleep during the day. Sometimes after lunch, or while sitting still in the office, or even at the movie theater, daytime drowsiness or uncontrollable microsleep can strike. But this can be extremely dangerous in some situations.

Maintenance of Wakefulness Tests (MWT) are helpful for two distinct purposes. They are designed to verify if treatment for a sleeping disorder is working or to ensure workers are well-suited for professions where drowsiness is a safety issue.

What is Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing?

MWT is a tool for measuring alertness throughout the day. The test results show if you can stay awake during set time periods when you would normally not be sleeping. It demonstrates that the person can be alert and function well even during times of low noise and activity.

What is the Testing Process?

Maintenance of Wakefulness Tests limits sensory factors which would limit your ability to fall asleep under normal conditions. The testing environment is usually:

  • Illuminated with only dim lighting,
  • Quiet,
  • Free of other people and activity.

The testing process requires you to sit still in this quiet, calm setting for intervals of about 40 minutes. During this time, you are asked to refrain from any activity that would be stimulating or inhibit you from falling asleep, such as talking, singing, reading or moving excessively.

These testing intervals will be repeated four or five times. And the Maintenance of Wakefulness tests may need to be performed again in the future in order to compare results. This is especially true for patients being treated for sleep deprivation or a sleeping disorder.

Where is Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing Performed

MWT is performed in one day at a certified sleep disorder screening center. This is done at a laboratory because it requires the individual to be hooked up to special monitors during the test intervals. Sleep technicians will keep track of your heart and brain activity, as well as eye and facial movements throughout the tests.

You will be asked to come into the sleep center in the morning and testing will begin about 2 to 3 hours after your usual wake-up time. Between testing intervals, you will have free time to move about, watch television, read and eat, but you will not be allowed to sleep. You will likely not be allowed to leave the center either. This is because exposure to daylight can interrupt the testing process.

What Do the Test Results Show?

Ideally, the person being tested will not show signs of drowsiness or trouble staying awake during the 40-minute testing intervals. The testing interval ends after this period of time, or if the subject falls asleep.

At the end of the four of five testing intervals, the sleep technician will review the results with a sleep screening specialist. Positive results of MWT would show that the subject is adequately alert during the day to perform their job safely, or that the treatment for the sleep disorder is working. Clearly, negative results would indicate the opposite.

Who Should Get Tested?

This type of testing is useful for two specific diagnostic purposes.

For Those Concerned with On-the-Job Safety

Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing may be advised, or even required, for some jobs. This includes people with professions in which drowsiness, limited alertness or falling asleep can be dangerous, namely truck drivers, pilots, air traffic controllers, and those handling heavy machinery.

For Those Being Treated for a Sleep Disorder

Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing can be helpful in confirming that a specific treatment method for a sleep disorder has been effective. Specifically, individuals using CPAP therapy to treat sleep apnea who continue to feel overly sleepy during the day may be advised to have Maintenance of Wakefulness Testing. It can be used to measure the issue and assist in modifying the treatment plan or finding a better treatment solution.

How Should You Prepare for a Maintenance of Wakefulness Test?

If you are going to have some testing performed, try to get a regular amount of sleep the night before. Dress comfortably for the evaluation day. Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in the day prior to your visit to the sleep center. Also, avoid caffeine and nicotine before or during testing. Let your loved ones and colleagues know in advance that you will be having sleep testing performed and that you may be unavailable to respond to calls or requests for part of the day.

Are You Having Trouble Staying Awake?

If you are feeling excessively tired during the day or finding it difficult to stay awake at work, it is time to seek professional help. There may be an easy solution or clear treatment for your sleep problems. Sleep Health Solutions would like to help you find it.

Contact Sleep Health Solutions for sleep screening, both in-home or at our sleep center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Call today: (330) 923-0228.

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