Sleep Apnea Testing & Diagnosis: What You Need To Know
Do you find yourself not feeling rested, even after getting a full night of sleep? Does your partner complain that you snore, or are they scared because you have a tendency to stop breathing in your sleep? You may be suffering from sleep apnea – a serious health condition that can take years off your life. It’s time to complete a sleep apnea test to find out if a sleep disorder may be stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep.
What Is Sleep Apnea, Exactly?
Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition, affecting approximately 22 million Americans. Approximately 80% of these sleep apnea cases are undiagnosed. People who have sleep apnea stop breathing for a short time during sleep, depriving your vital organs – your heart and your brain – of oxygen. Many people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea find themselves waking up in the middle of the night, gasping for air.
There are three different categories of sleep apnea. People who have central sleep apnea stop breathing while sleeping because the brain sends incorrect messages to the muscles responsible for breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat narrows or closes during sleep. Mixed apnea is a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnea.
Left untreated sleep apnea can lead to a multitude of health problems, including chronic heart failure, stroke, depression, and high blood pressure, due to chronic oxygen and sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea can lead to persistent drowsiness, which can cause accidents involving cars or heavy machinery.
Anyone can have sleep apnea, but it’s most common in men over the age of 40. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing sleep apnea. This can create a cycle that’s tough to break – a lack of restful sleep increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese. People who develop sleep apnea after gaining weight may find it extremely difficult to return to a healthy weight.
Testing For Sleep Apnea: The Basics
Sleep apnea testing has come a long way from the sleep studies done over the years. In the past, people who potentially suffered from sleep apnea had to stay overnight in a sleep center or sleep lab to do a sleep study. This meant sleeping in an uncomfortable sleep center bed, in a lab, being watched throughout the night. Most people who participate in an out of home sleep study have found difficulties in recreating a standard night of sleep in an unfamiliar environment. In addition to these issues, due to a shortage of available beds, sleep centers can take weeks or months to get a sleep study appointment. On top of it all, the cost of having sleep test completed at a sleep or hospital can be prohibitively high.
A home sleep test is a comfortable, convenient way to help our doctor get more information on how you breathe while you sleep. You’ll use a few different pieces of equipment for your home sleep test. A small lightweight tube (called a cannula) will rest just inside your nostrils while you sleep. You’ll have a pulse oximeter on your finger to keep track of your oxygen levels throughout the night while you sleep. A strap around your chest, similar to an athletic heart rate monitor, measures the effort of your respiration.
What To Expect During A Sleep Apnea Test
Before you begin your home sleep test, you’ll meet with a provider in one of our 47 convenient locations to talk about the symptoms that may be related to sleep apnea. During this visit, you will fill out a health questionnaire and talk with our medical provider about your sleep issues. If our provider believes that you may have sleep apnea, we will prescribe a home sleep test, and likely send you home with one that day.
The home sleep test process is simple. You will follow the instructions to set up your cannula and pulse oximeter, and you’ll go about your normal nightly routine. Since you are relaxing in your own home, you can relax and get comfortable before turning in as you normally would. The comfort and familiarity of your own bedroom allows our doctor to see the reality of your sleep in your normal environment.
You won’t need to do any recording or data charting; it’s all completed automatically with your home sleep test equipment. Our doctor will review the results of your sleep apnea test, and you won’t have to wait for a lab to send over your test results. From there, you’ll be diagnosed and given treatment options.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Home sleep tests can be taken the same night as they are prescribed, so it’s possible for you to have the results of your sleep apnea test within 24 – 72 hours. If you have sleep apnea, we will know right away, and our doctor will create a customized treatment plan that attacks the problem at its source.
If you have sleep apnea, you will be treated in two ways. First, our doctor will prescribe a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, device. This device works to keep your airway open while you sleep, saving you from dangerous sleep apnea symptoms. Second, our doctor will work with you on healthy lifestyle changes that can help moderate your sleep apnea. These changes may include sleeping on your side instead of your back, avoiding alcohol (as alcohol relaxes the airway and makes it more likely for sleep apnea symptoms to occur), and losing weight.
Our sleep technician and sleep doctor will continuously monitor your progress and make adjustments where needed. Your provider will also follow up with you regularly to assess the comfort and quality of your sleep.
If you think that you may be suffering from sleep apnea symptoms, it’s important to seek help before you develop serious complications. You deserve a restful night of sleep.