Sleep apnea is a common condition in which you stop breathing for short periods while you sleep. Without treatment, it can lead to significant health issues over time. If you think you have sleep apnea, your doctor may perform a nighttime sleep test that monitors your breathing.
As part of the diagnosis of sleep apnea, your doctor will ask you to fill out questionnaires to assess symptoms like daytime sleepiness and potential risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, and age. It’s also possible to monitor your sleep in the privacy of your own home. If your symptoms and risk factors strongly suggest sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend at-home sleep monitoring.
Let’s examine the different test options available to diagnose sleep apnea.
A sleep study in a laboratory
An in-lab sleep study can diagnose sleep apnea as well as other sleep disorders.
Sleep studies are typically conducted between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This timeframe may not be ideal for people who are night owls or early risers. At-home tests may be recommended in these cases. You’ll be staying in a private room designed to make you feel comfortable, similar to a hotel room. Make sure you bring your pajamas and any other items you usually need for sleeping.
A sleep study is noninvasive; you don’t have to give a sample of blood. You will be attached to a variety of wires, however. While you sleep, the sleep technician can monitor your breathing, brain activity, and other vital signs. The more relaxed you are, the more effectively the technician can monitor your sleep.
When you fall asleep, the technician will monitor the following:
- Your sleep cycle, as determined by brain waves and eye movements
- heart rate and blood pressure.
- Your breathing, which includes oxygen levels, breathing lapses, and snoring
- The position you are in and your limb movements
Sleep studies come in two formats: full nights and split nights.
In a full-night sleep study, your sleep will be monitored throughout the entire night. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may need to return to the lab at a later date to set up a breathing aid device.
In a split-night study, the first half of the night is used to monitor your sleep. If sleep apnea is diagnosed, the second half of the night is used to set up the treatment device.
Sleep-testing at home
Sleep testing at home is a simplified form of laboratory testing. Instead of a technician, your sleep apnea specialist will prescribe a portable breathing monitor kit that you will take home. Your regular bedtime routine can be followed the night of the test. Ensure you hook up the monitoring sensors according to the instructions provided with the kit.
An at-home sleep apnea monitor is usually simple to install. Typically, it includes the following components:
- A finger clip that measures oxygen levels and heart rate.
- A nasal cannula for measuring oxygen and airflow
- Wearable sensors that measure your chest’s rise and fall
A home test does not measure your sleep cycles, position, or limb movements at night like an in-lab test does. Your results will be sent to your doctor following the test. You will be contacted to discuss the results and determine if treatment is necessary.
Treatment for sleep apnea depends on its severity. A lifestyle change may be sufficient in some cases.
Several medical treatments are available for sleep apnea, including
- The continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP)
- Appliances for the mouth
- A nasal device
- Supplemental oxygen
- Surgical procedures
Sleep apnea tests, both in the laboratory and at home, measure vital functions such as breathing patterns, heart rate, and oxygen levels. Based on the results of these tests, your doctor can determine whether you suffer from sleep apnea.
Consider scheduling an appointment with our Glen Burnie Sleep Apnea specialist if you have symptoms. We are here to help you get a good night’s sleep, so give us a call today.
Chesapeake Sleep Center
7711 Quarterfield Road, Suite C-1
Glen Burnie, MD 21061