When you were diagnosed with sleep apnea, you had your sleep study. As you know, they kept track of your blood oxygen level, but they also measured many other values: pulse, blood pressure, number of apneic episodes per minute, amount of REM sleep, etc. The purpose of the CPAP machine is to overcome the obstruction caused by your airways and allow you to keep breathing at a regular rate throughout the night.
Since CPAP therapy should directly affect your oxygen intake, you need a way to monitor your blood oxygen levels. Here’s why you should pair your machine with an oxygen monitor.
What is a Fingertip Pulse Oximeter?
Firstly, let’s describe a pulse oximeter and how it functions. A pulse oximeter, most often worn on the fingertip, is a medical device that measures oxygen saturation levels in a person’s blood. In other words, it measures the amount of oxygen present in the bloodstream. It is typically for people who have the potential for unstable blood oxygen levels like those that are already in intensive care units and emergency rooms. The finger pulse oximeter uses red and infrared light to measure the oxygenation in the fingertips.
How is this possible? Because Hemoglobin (the part of the blood that transports oxygen) absorbs different amounts of light depending upon how much oxygen it is transporting.
Why is Blood Oxygen Level Important?
Low blood oxygen levels are harmful for many reasons. But let us consider how blood oxygen relates to sleep apnea and CPAP therapy. Low oxygen levels certainly may indicate a serious health problem. People with sleep apnea or an underlying lung disease such as asthma or COPD, sometimes have blood oxygen that drops to unhealthy or even fatal levels. When people suffer from sleep apnea, their airways close and oxygen does not flow to the brain and bloodstream. Oxygen levels then fall, triggering the brain to arouse the body. Although this happens subconsciously, the body continually awakens negating the positive benefits of deep and restful sleep. This vicious cycle is the typical symptom of sleep apnea. A pulse oximeter can read oxygen levels to help to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea.
Using a Pulse Oximeter with CPAP
Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are using your CPAP/APAP/BPAP machine, it is important to confirm you are receiving the full benefits of the therapy. Of course, the reason behind using a PAP machine is to maintain the integrity of your airways in order to breathe normally and deliver oxygen to the bloodstream.
A pulse oximeter can supplement any software available with your PAP machine by measuring this important gauge of the effectiveness of your treatment. Simply attach the pulse oximeter to your fingertip and let it record your blood oxygen levels. There are, of course, nuances that need to be users need to understand when reading the results such as how much time you spend at certain low levels. But overall, it will give you a barometer for keeping CPAP therapy as is or speaking to your doctor about optimizing.
Many CPAP users are interested in using pulse oximeters as part of their ongoing CPAP therapy.
How to choose the best oximeter to help with PAP treatment?
Data from a pulse oximeter can be used to check two important pieces of information – heart rate, and blood oxygen saturation percentage. In sleep apnea patients, the heart rate generally increases and the blood oxygen saturation level generally decreases during apnea events. A pulse oximeter with recording capability worn during sleep can help a CPAP user know if their CPAP therapy is effective. Unfortunately, even the most advanced CPAP machines do not record this type of information.
Here we’re going to summarize the features you should look for in a pulse oximeter, so you can make an even more informed purchasing decision.
Long-Term Recording vs. Spot Checking
This is the biggest difference you’ll find in pulse oximeters. A recording pulse oximeter allows the user to wear the device for hours at a time, and then look at the recorded data later. If you have sleep apnea and if you want to see what’s going on at night when you sleep, then you’ll need to select a model that has recording capability. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a device for periodic spot checking only, then either type of oximeter would be suitable.
The pulse oximeters with recording capability have built-in alarms that allow the user to set thresholds at which the alarms will sound. In addition, these devices also have a low battery alarm. Alarms can be useful in many activities to let you know that you’ve exceeded your desired heart rate, or that your blood oxygen level has fallen below a pre-determined level.
Almost all fingertip oximeters will feel pretty much the same when applied to a finger. The clamp-like alligator clip design is ubiquitous. Many people need to switch fingers after a couple of hours. A more comfortable option is the wearable Pulse Oximeter. They are usually designed in a ring or wrist-wearing shape to fit the user’s fingers and wrist. Not easy to slip during night-wearing, in addition, the silicone material also ensures long-term comfort.
The perfusion index is a relative value that indicates the strength of the pulse at the sensor site. The perfusion index is commonly used to help identify appropriate sensor application sites. This means that you can use the perfusion index to determine where you’re getting a good reading. You can move the oximeter from one finger to another to see if there is a difference in the perfusion index. It’s a good idea to place the oximeter where the perfusion index is highest. The perfusion index can also help to identify any anomalous readings during recording. If you see data that looks inaccurate it could be due to temporary incorrect positioning of the sensor on the finger. A low perfusion index value corresponding to the “bad” or “artifact” data can help you determine the true nature of the data.
What Our Customers Are Saying
- Wearing one of the O2ing each night has kept me afib free for nearly three years now. I have central sleep apnea and would end up in atrial fibrillation every 2-3 months when I’d stop breathing while sleeping. This ring vibrates when my O2 level drops too low and that’s enough to get me to breathe again! And it’s helpful to look at the app on my phone each morning to see how I did the night before. CPAP machines are only marginally effective for central sleep apnea and there are no other treatment options, but this is the closest thing and has been very effective for me.
- Excellent compliment to CPAP Machine. It does Not tell you when you STOPPED BREATHING, it will give you an accurate record of your Sp O2 oxygen/saturation ratio. The phrase stopped breathing is misleading. Some people have a lifelong breathing rate which includes a pause between breaths, whereby the Sp O2 drops off to a point that may be alarming to some. If you are fatigued throughout the day, it may be the result of lack of oxygen when sleeping, and sometimes during waking hours, leading to a more serious health risk. This is a wonderful piece of equipment which will assist you and your doctor to make an assessment of your health. The Vibration is felt when the oxygen saturation drops below a level that you preset. If you consciously take a few deep breaths the oxygen level comes up again, sometimes changing your sleeping position will help. With Covid lurking around every corner it is wise to know your SP O2 level. This light weight, compact, easy to use equipment is a great companion to a CPAP machine. I print out a hard copy of the previous nights sleep each morning, and can see when my SP O2 dipped below my preset level. I also use a Smart Watch which features SP O2 and Blood pressure at a glance at any time day or night. The Getwellvue Ring Finger Oximeter is the only monitoring device I have which will give me a minute by minute chart and graph of my SP O2. It is a very helpful piece of equipment.
- I own two rings because I won’t go to sleep without it anymore. If I slide down down from the really neat foam wedge set that keeps me elevated and apnea starts, the ring vibrates to wake me up so I can re-adjust my position and get some O2 back into my body.
- I love my ring! Having a constant reading allows me to adjust my oxygen as needed. It also alerts me when my cannula falls off while I’m sleeping. A vibration warning is so much better than waking up gasping for breath!
We are dedicated to developing products with medical-grade accuracy but consumer friendly, finding an easier and more modern way to track your wellness, we believe you can get peace of mind to live a healthier and longer life.