The Benefits of Testing Sleep Apnea at Home
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a condition wherein the body’s oxygen levels decrease due to an obstruction lodged in the airway or simply because the body stopped breathing for a while, and sometimes, both. If you know someone who snores loudly and then suddenly stops breathing for 10 seconds or a person who sometimes awakens abruptly because of a loud snort, then they might be experiencing Sleep apnea syndrome.
The most commonly diagnosed breathing-related disorder is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSA). The disturbance in a person’s breathing leads to an interruption of sleep and leads to extreme sleepiness or sometimes insomnia. Excessive sleepiness is the most common complaint of clients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Patients suffering from this syndrome are not relieved with naps and may instead experience dull headaches. They are also known to boast about their ability to sleep wherever and whenever they want.
Furthermore, people who experience Sleep Apnea are prone to develop personality and behavioral changes in their state which can be accompanied by morning headaches and sore throats. If left untreated, Sleep Apnea can result in more dangerous complications such as increased blood pressure, an abnormal heart rhythm, a spike in the risk for a stroke, and heart failure.
Who should take a sleep apnea test?
Sleep Apnea Syndrome commonly occurs in the following people; older and overweight men, people with broad necks, and occasional smokers.
There are three types of sleep apnea.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea- This type of sleep apnea is characterized by the lack of airflow due to a blockage in the pharynx.
- Central Sleep Apnea- This kind of syndrome is defined by a cessation of airflow and respiratory movement. In simpler terms, the patient stops breathing for a while.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea- This form of sleep apnea is a combination of the Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea wherein there is an occlusion at the pharynx, and the patient stops breathing in an episode of sleep.
People who experience Sleep Apnea should undergo a sleep study or what we call a Polysomnography. This is a series of tests that analyze your brain’s electrical system, your muscles’ health and the nerves that control them, the electrical activity that your heart is creating, your oxygen saturation levels, and your diaphragm’s movement when you sleep.
Your doctor might also prescribe you with a Home Sleep Test. It is a simplified tool to diagnose sleep apnea in your home.
What are the benefits of taking the Sleep Apnea test at home rather than in a hospital?
Now before anything else, how could a patient take a Sleep Apnea test at home? They could do it by having a Micro-electrical Mechanical System (MEMS) Sensor Based Device at their disposal. The MEMS is a compact version of a sleep study that can diagnose sleep apnea in the comfort of the patient’s home.
An example of a MEMS device is the Wellue O2 ring. It is a compact portable oximeter that measures and records blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing patterns while the patient sleeps at night. This ring can comfortably fit their finger and take the data needed while they sleep.
A typical sleep study involves overnight sleeping in a clinical laboratory. But much like anything else, having a better option would be preferable. Some of the benefits of having a Sleep Apnea test at home are Convenience, Comfort, and Cost.
First is Convenience. A sleep clinic may not be as accessible to everyone as a regular clinic. Taking a Sleep Apnea test at home would mean not having to go through traffic, a probability of a long drive, nor having to set an appointment. As mentioned, a typical study would be staying overnight at a clinic. Because of this, the patient (and if they have a companion) would have to pack for an overnight stay. It could also mean that the patient may have to alter their schedule and adjust it based on their appointment or whenever there is availability at their chosen clinic. Instead of just having a device, like the Wellue O2 ring that a patient could wear overnight, they would have to go through the hassle of going to a sleep clinic.
Next is Comfort. Some patients may have trouble sleeping in a different bed. The study’s whole point is to test the patient’s sleeping pattern and what happens while they sleep, but being uncomfortable may not produce the best results. With an at-home device like the Wellue O2 ring, it uses the same transmissive oximetry technology that clinics and hospitals trust. The patients can be assured that they are getting an accurate result since this device can track their heart rate & oxygen levels per second.
Lastly, another benefit of taking a Sleep Apnea test at home is the Cost. Having a test at a clinic or a hospital can be expensive. Other than the hospital bill, there is also gas money to add to the expense and the cost of possibly missing work to accommodate the clinic’s schedule.
How to take a Sleep Apnea Test at home?
First, consult with your doctor if the option of taking the sleep apnea test at home is suited for you. This will ensure that no negative interactions will occur with your other health issues such as maintenance medications and other complications like diabetes, hypertension, and heart problems. The next step is to acquire a device that will record your data.
Wellue O2 ring conveniently transfers the data recorded in the patient’s mobile device or computer that they may print out for their doctor to diagnose. Not only that but the Wellue O2 ring is also unique with its ability to correct the wearer’s sleep apnea by waking them up with an alarm when the patient’s oxygen levels go down to a certain point that they would set. It differs from patient to patient, especially if they have lung problems.
After recording the data, the patient may now proceed to their doctor for analysis.
How is Sleep Apnea treated?
Here are several pointers for patients to do when they have sleep apnea:
- Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages may depress a patient’s airway when sleeping.
- Manage their weight. Weight reduction diets and activities are recommended to help the body breathe in their hours of sleep.
- For severe cases, especially when the patient is hypoxic, the doctor may recommend a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or a Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP) with auxiliary oxygen for support.
- The last choice is surgery. This option may be recommended for really severe cases where positioning and devices can’t help the patient.
NCLEX-RN content review guide. (2013). New York: Kaplan Nursing.
Lippincott’s fast facts for NCLEX-RN. (2012). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health.