Obstructive sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder that affects approximately 10 to 30% of people. It is a sleep-related disorder that causes momentary pauses in breathing during sleep. However, it is common for many cases of sleep apnea to go undiagnosed.
If you face difficulties sleeping that can be related to the symptoms of sleep apnea, you can undertake an at-home sleep study. Home sleep apnea tests allow you to diagnose this disorder from the comfort and convenience of your home. In fact, many sleep apnea specialists also offer online sleep apnea tests for added flexibility.
This article can walk you through conducting a home sleep apnea test and sleep study.
Let’s get started!
Related: New Treatment For Sleep Apnea
What is an At-Home Sleep Apnea Test?
An at-home sleep apnea test is a diagnostic test that allows a person to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea from the convenience and comfort of their home. It can be performed by using a portable breathing monitor device that measures and detects breaks in breathing, known as apneas. The test also calculates the disorder’s severity score by determining the median number of breathing lapses per hour in bed.
Home sleep apnea tests eliminate the long waiting lists that come with polysomnography – an overnight sleep apnea study that sleep specialists perform in a lab – and make testing more accessible. However, a certified sleep apnea specialist will still need to interpret the results of your at-home sleep study.
Home sleep apnea tests generally monitor and measure various body metrics to understand whether a person has sleep apnea. Typically, sleep specialists measure the following metrics in a home sleep apnea study:
- Breathing patterns, respiratory activity, and chest motion
- Actigraphy, motor activity, or nocturnal movement
- Blood oxygen level or heart rate
- Position changes and sleep positions
- The intensity of snoring events
It is crucial to note that at-home sleep apnea studies do not measure sleep quality. This downside can be limiting, as polysomnography provides a deeper and more holistic view of your sleep patterns and sleep quality, along with sleep apnea-related metrics.
Related: Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
How do At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests Work?
At-home sleep apnea tests work by attaining a prescription and evaluation from a sleep specialist, conducting the sleep study at home, and then sending the results to the sleep specialist for interpretation.
Let us break these steps down:
Attaining a prescription
A home sleep apnea test is only available with a sleep specialist’s prescription. You will need to book an appointment with your sleep specialist or primary care physician, who may pre-screen you for obstructive sleep apnea or ask questions about your symptoms. The assessment results will decide your prescription.
The sleep apnea specialist will also explain how you should use the sleep testing kit and if you wish it to be delivered to your house.
Taking the test
Different kinds of sleep apnea tests require varying sensors. Sleep apnea studies are categorised according to their accuracy in measuring sleep metrics. Sleep specialists classify sleep apnea tests as type 3 or type 4. Type 3 sleep apnea test uses more sensors to detect relevant data such as airflow, blood oxygen levels, snoring, heart rate, or body positioning.
The variations between the tests are generally because of the several new types of research that are underway to learn more about sleep apnea and sleep disturbances. The sensors for the type 3 sleep apnea device contain the following:
- An effort belt to track breathing patterns by wrapping it around the chest.
- An acoustic sensor to determine airflow.
- A small clip known as an oximeter to track blood oxygen levels by attaching it to a finger.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, at-home sleep apnea tests must take measurements of blood oxygen levels, airflow, and breathing efforts at the least. Therefore, a type 3 sleep apnea test satisfies these standards.
It is crucial to avoid caffeine and alcohol intake, napping, and heavy or late meals on the day of the sleep apnea study. Your sleep apnea specialist may ask you to undertake the study three nights in a row so that the equipment can carry variable data making analysis more manageable and accurate.
Since sleep apnea is worse for people who sleep on their back than those who sleep sideways, data collection over more than one night and informing your sleep apnea specialist about your habitual sleep positions may make diagnosis and treatment more effective.
Result analysis with a sleep apnea specialist
A sleep apnea specialist goes through the collected data, interprets it, and forms a diagnosis. If your symptoms hint towards sleep apnea, you will have to work with your doctor to devise a suitable treatment plan.
If you want a home sleep apnea test, American board-certified and fellowship-trained sleep apnea specialists at SleepRx can help! Head over to SleepRx to take a free sleep study quiz and book an online appointment within minutes!