What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea Test is a widely underdiagnosed but common sleep disorder during which a person experiences shortness of breath during sleep. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for at least few seconds during their sleep, as a result of which their sleep breaks. This disruption in sleep is caused when the brain and the rest of the body fail to get enough oxygen, causing breathing to stop repeatedly throughout the sleep process.
Sleep apnea is mainly divided into two categories:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea:
It is more common as compared to central sleep apnea. In this type of apnea, the airway in the throat is blocked due to the collapse of soft tissues in the throat. As a result, the sleep cycle breaks into fragments and the duration of deep sleep is disturbed. Obstructive sleep apnea is commonly identified through symptoms such as restless sleep, morning headaches, snoring and daytime fatigue.
Central sleep apnea:
causes failure on part of the brain, which is unable to signal muscles to breathe, as a result of which the individual experiences loss of breath and wakes up with a distorted sleep.
Possible Consequences of Sleep Apnea
Although sleep apnea usually goes undiagnosed in the majority of those suffering from it, the awareness that it could lead to dangerous health issues must be spread. If sleep apnea goes underdiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to various issues like stroke, congestive heart failure, increased risk of cardiac arrest, respiratory and metabolic conditions, and even sudden death.
Sleep apnea is also associated with high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and worsening of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
In addition to the hazards that it causes to human physical health, sleep apnea causes individuals to lose the ability to perform their daily chores and activities efficiently. It also affects the mental and emotional capabilities of people who are affected, which is why this condition needs to be taken seriously and treated as soon as it is diagnosed.
How to test for sleep apnea?
Before you start your treatment for sleep apnea, it is important to look into the details of the condition and evaluate yourself beforehand. There are various methods that are clinically proven to treat sleep apnea however, one needs to determine the intensity of the condition and treat it accordingly.
There are various options for testing sleep apnea that include getting help from a lab or else testing at home. As far as lab testing is concerned, it requires you to travel and stay at a sleep lab where a sleep specialist watches you sleep to observe signs of sleep apnea. The bed that sleep-lab contains is designed with multiple cords that are hooked up all over your body while you sleep and the signs of sleeplessness, snoring, breathing and time lapses between each episode of sleep apnea are observed and recorded. The lab testing method is applied for at least one night in minimum however, the time is extended if required.
Sleep Apnea Test at Home
Before you seek a professional’s help for the treatment of sleep apnea, it is strongly suggested that you conduct a self-evaluation at home and then seek additional diagnostic testing. As it has been observed previously, going to a lab and staying there is not only inconvenient but also a costly method of testing for sleep apnea. In order to avoid all the hassle associated with lab-testing, there are now methods to evaluate yourself at home before seeking help from a professional.
To conduct a sleep apnea test at home, the STOP-BANG survey is widely used as a diagnostic method. By using this method, one can find out whether they need further diagnosis by a physician or not. The STOP-BANG method asks the following questions:
S – Snoring (Do you snore loudly or louder than other people?)
T- Do you feel tired, fatigued or sleepy frequently during the day?
O – Has anyone ever observed you unable to breathe during sleep?
P – Do you have high blood pressure or have you been treated for BP lately?
if you answer ‘yes’ to two or more of these questions, you are likely to have sleep apnea that needs to be treated immediately.
In order to predict the results more accurately, the following four questions also help in determining your chances of having sleep apnea:
B – is your body mass index (BMI) more than 35 kg/m2?
A – Is your age more than 50 years old?
N – is your neck circumference greater than 40 cm?
G – is your gender male?
If you answered ‘yes’ to three of the above listed questions, you are at high risk of sleep apnea. It has been researched that males are more prone to sleep apnea and in case of a score higher than five, you are strongly encouraged to consult your medical provider at the earliest.
Now that the initial self-evaluation has been discussed, let’s enumerate some home testing devices that can come in handy whenever you decide to test yourself at home for sleep apnea diagnosis.
- Watch-PAT100 This device used for sleep apnea testing is similar to a wristwatch that comes with two probes attached to your finger. It measures and records your pulse when you stop breathing.
- SNAP Test this cannula like device is used to measure sound and airflow or snoring
- ARES this wireless device is used to measure and record pulse rate, oxygen, snoring, airflow and oxygen saturation all together.
All these devices perform their respective functions and are widely used as alternative methods to lab sleep testing.
Considering the seriousness of sleep apnea as a disorder and the medical health issues it is associated with, it is extremely crucial to get yourself timely diagnosis followed by proper treatment.
A whole lot of diagnostic options are available for sleep apnea testing that includes self-evaluation at home or going to a sleep lab. The method at the lab is obviously accurate but it is costly and requires time and travel to get the diagnosis done. Therefore, people have started resorting to testing at home as an alternative method of identifying if they have sleep apnea.
As for sleep apnea tests at home, they are undoubtedly more comfortable as compared to lab testing. All you require is the device of your choice and your own bed to monitor your symptoms and record them. The home testing method is not just convenient but also costs much lesser than lab testing at a sleep lab. However, when it comes to the downside of home testing for sleep apnea, they turn out not to be as detailed and accurate as lab tests. In addition to that, at home testing has limited scope and normally works best with serious cases of sleep apnea. Also, sleep test at home is not a suitable option for people with pre-existing health conditions such as heart problems, lung disease, hypoventilation, and other sleep disorders as it affects the efficacy of the testing, unable to produce desired results.
To conclude, home testing for sleep apnea is undoubtedly an affordable yet effective method for diagnosing the condition at hand. However, before conducting any sleep test at home, it is advisable to consider the factors that would make a test efficient or produce desired results. Otherwise, consulting your health care professional is the way to go!