Can You Have a Test for Sleep Apnea at Home?

Daytime drowsiness may signal serious sleep disorder
Woman with sleep mask

For a person without significant health problems, home-based tests for obstructive sleep apnea are just as accurate and effective as those performed in a sleep disorder lab.

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This was one of the key findings of new guidelines for diagnosing sleep apnea in people with unexplained daytime sleepiness, published recently by The American College of Physicians (ACP).

According to the guidelines, doctors still should refer patients with congestive heart failure, chronic lung disease and neurological disorders to a sleep laboratory.

Physicians consider obstructive sleep apnea a serious health condition linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“It still is an under-recognized and under-treated condition, which is related to various health consequences,” says sleep physician Harneet Walia, MD.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

A disorder caused by repetitive obstruction of the upper airway, the condition can lead to reduced airflow during sleep, called hypopnea, or it can lead to apnea, which is complete cessation of airflow during sleep. This can occur several times during the night.

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Either of these can interfere with a good night’s rest and then leave you fatigued during the day. This can lead to drowsy driving. Or you may not be able to concentrate as well.

Diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea

In the past, you might see a sleep specialist at the recommendation of your primary care physician. You would be scheduled you for a polysomnography, which is a full night of diagnostic testing in a sleep laboratory. A trained attendant or the lab staff could monitor your sleep overnight.

However, portable monitors people can use at home have become much more widely used in the last few years. People with a high likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea have used them without significant health issues. In addition to providing an effective diagnosis, the monitors are much less costly than using a sleep laboratory.

Don’t wait for testing

If you find yourself frequently feeling sleepy during the day or you suffer from snoring or restless sleep, talk with your physician as soon as possible. The sooner you get checked, the better, according to Dr. Walia.

It is very important that primary care physicians or doctors seeing patients on a regular basis are aware of this condition, Dr. Walia says. “They should be cognizant about screening patients for obstructive sleep apnea,” she says.

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More about the new study

The new guidelines include recommendations that shed light on the disorder and help sleep specialists develop a treatment plan.

According to ACP researchers, approximately 9 percent of Americans have moderate to severe sleep apnea. The condition is more common in elderly people. Additionally, roughly 90 percent of sleep apnea sufferers have not been diagnosed.

The ACP prepared its new guidelines as a follow-up to earlier recommendations for the diagnosis of sleep apnea from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. They were founded on research from studies performed over the last several decades.

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