Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. This sleep disorder is one that can lead to other serious health concerns such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even death if left untreated. This means it is important to get it diagnosed as soon as possible. Take the assessment from Lunella here to see if you are at risk and to have a sleep study done from the comforts of your own home.
A polysomnogram provides critical data on your brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rate, and body movements to diagnose sleep disorders. Unfortunately, many cases of OSA are unrecognized and undiagnosed, partly due to the high cost and inconvenience of polysomnography, which is usually done in sleep labs. (1) Some locations may be lacking in facilities and staff members to perform these exams, leaving the demand for the test higher than the supply.
With technology advancing, there are now at-home sleep tests that can be performed in your own bed! These tests are proving to be more convenient and cost-effective than in-lab exams.
If you think you may need an at-home sleep apnea test you may be wondering how to get yours and how it works. Many times your medical provider or sleep technician will give you instructions and explain the process to you, but here is a handy overview.
Sleep testing requires a prescription from your doctor. Some websites offer the testing kit as an over-the-counter device but you should always get it approved by your physician. This is especially true if you have any other medical conditions or are taking any medication. You’ll either get the equipment delivered to your door or you’ll need to pick it up from your physician.
Before going to bed the night of your sleep test, you’ll attach the sensors as instructed, and then turn on the machine. The sensors usually include a finger probe, chest strap, and nasal cannula (or mask) that will monitor your chest movement, breathing pattern, oxygen level, heart rate, and body position.
Go to sleep like you normally would and when you wake up just take off the sensors. For some people, being attached to sensors or wires can feel uncomfortable and cause trouble falling asleep. If this happens and you don’t normally have difficulty falling asleep, it may be recommended that you try it again the following night. It is also possible that the sensors may come detached. If this happens, you may need an in-lab polysomnography test at a sleep center.
The results of the test will be scored by a sleep technician and sent to your physician to review. Your physician may have you come in for a more in-depth, in-lab sleep study, or may have the information they need to prescribe treatment.
If you have sleep apnea there is a good chance that your doctor will prescribe a CPAP machine, which is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and is a machine attached to a hose and mask. The mask is worn during sleep and pressure is used to hold your airway open and keep it from being obstructed.
Depending on what is causing your apnea, other treatments may include sinus medications or nasal sprays, weight loss or other lifestyle changes, anti-snore mouthpieces, changing your sleep position, and in some cases, surgery.
As mentioned, letting sleep apnea go undiagnosed and untreated can lead to serious health conditions and even death. If you think you may have sleep apnea, contact your health provider to see if at-home sleep apnea testing is right for you.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.