Are you often feeling tired and lethargic despite having a full night’s sleep? You may be suffering from sleep apnea, a serious health condition characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during your sleep. Those who suffer from sleep apnea can benefit from timely diagnosis and treatment to prevent health complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and even congestive heart failure.
These days, there are a number of options when it comes to sleep apnea testing. Technology has made it possible for individuals to take an at-home sleep apnea test instead of needing to visit a doctor or undergo an overnight sleep study at a sleep clinic. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about at-home sleep apnea tests, including their accuracy and how they work.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while sleeping. This happens because the airways get blocked either partially or completely, preventing the body from taking full breaths. In some cases, this can occur many times during the night, leading to fragmented sleep and fatigue during the day. People with sleep apnea are at an increased risk for stroke, heart attack, depression, and other health-related issues. It is essential to seek medical help if you think you may have this disorder.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It is characterized by blockages in your airways that are caused when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea relates to your central nervous system. With this condition, your brain fails to inform your chest muscles to inhale air. You may experience shortness of breath and abnormal breathing patterns during sleep. Stroke victims and ALS patients are at higher risk of developing central sleep apnea.
Complex or Severe Sleep Apnea
Complex sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea, is the most critical sleep apnea condition. This sleep disorder carries the worst symptoms.
Common Signs of Sleep Apnea
One of the most difficult parts of diagnosing sleep apnea is that you may not know you have it, since you may not be aware that your breathing stops during sleep.
Some of the most common signs of sleep apnea include:
- Loud and persistent snoring (often identified by a bed partner)
- Pauses in breathing while sleeping
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, and irritability
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headaches
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you can start by taking our online sleep apnea quiz to assess your risk. Then, we’ll schedule a consultation for you to come in and speak with our sleep specialist. If it is determined that you may have sleep apnea, our doctor can order a sleep test that you can do at home that will help give you an accurate diagnosis.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
You may be at a higher-risk for sleep apnea if you:
- are obese
- have allergies
- over-consume alcoholic beverages
- are a smoker
At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests
An at-home sleep apnea test is an alternative to polysomnography (traditional sleep apnea testing). It is a convenient and cost-effective way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. The test involves wearing a breathing monitor for 1-3 nights at home in your own bed. The monitor tracks your sleep time, body position, breathing disruptions, blood oxygen levels, and respiratory efforts while you sleep. The device records the number of times your breathing stops and starts, as well as the duration of each pause. It also measures oxygen levels in your blood and heart rate.
At-home sleep apnea testing is an alternative to overnight sleep testing, which is a more advanced option that requires the patient to spend the night in a sleep lab where they are monitored throughout the night by a sleep medicine specialist.
Pros of At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests
- They don’t require you to visit a sleep center overnight, so you can stay in the comfort of your own bed.
- You aren’t in an unfamiliar location that could disrupt your sleep even more than normal.
- At-home testing may be more accessible than sleep apnea testing in a lab, since sleep laboratories often have long waitlists.
- They are usually covered by health insurance or dental insurance and are more affordable than a lab sleep study.
Cons of At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests
- At-home tests may not be as accurate in diagnosing the severity of sleep apnea as traditional sleep studies may be.
- They may be more susceptible to errors since they aren’t monitored by a professional.
- At-home tests are limited in the factors they monitor. They can’t capture more advanced factors such as brain waves or eye movements and leg movements.
Should You Take a Home Sleep Apnea Test?
Before taking at at-home sleep test, you’ll need to have a consultation with our sleep specialist to assess whether you likely suffer from sleep-disordered breathing. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at-home sleep tests for people with symptoms that suggest they likely have sleep apnea, have no other major medical problems, and are physically able to administer the test at home.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also recommends that at-home sleep tests be used only to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea rather than central sleep apnea, which requires a more extensive sleep study for an accurate diagnosis.
Get an Accurate Sleep Apnea Diagnosis at Healthy Sleep Midwest
If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea or have poor sleep quality, contact the sleep doctors at Healthy Sleep Midwest today for easy and convenient at-home diagnostic testing. We can create a customized treatment plan to improve your sleep health and help restore your quality of life!