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An Easy Way to Diagnose Sleep Apnea

Friday, March 18, 2022 9:10 AM

By Angelina Campanile

Tired of being kicked out of bed because of your snoring?

A home sleep study is an easy, convenient way to figure out if you have obstructive sleep apnea or frequent pauses in breathing when the upper airway narrows or collapses, and breathing is temporarily stopped.

Sleep Apnea Studies

About 24 million Americans live with sleep apnea but go undiagnosed. The most common symptoms include loud snoring, waking up in the middle of the night short of breath gasping, and waking up in the morning with headaches, dry mouth or sore throat, said NorthShore Neurologist Camelia Musleh, MD.

A home sleep study can help your doctor determine the best treatment for you while offering the ability to complete it in the comfort of your own home.

So what exactly is a home sleep study?

If your doctor refers you for a home sleep study, you pick up the device from a NorthShore sleep lab. A sleep technologist shows you how to use it.

The device monitors breathing, not actual sleep. It measures nasal and oral airflow, blood oxygen levels, how much effort it takes to breathe, and whether your breathing is deep or shallow while sleeping.

In order to acquire this data, most at-home tests require a sensor belt that wraps around your chest, an oximeter finger probe that clips onto your finger, and a mask that is secured around your ears with tubes that go into your nostrils, similar to an oxygen mask.

You return the device to the lab the next day so sleep technologists can download the data.

In preparation for a home sleep study, your doctor will most likely give you specific instructions which may include:

  • Avoid drinks or foods containing alcohol or caffeine during the afternoon and evening before the sleep study, as they can affect your sleep patterns and worsen symptoms of some sleep disorders
  • Do not nap in the afternoon before the study
  • Clean off any lotions, gels, colognes, or makeup before the test to prevent interference with the sensors
  • Ask questions if you’re unsure about how the test or equipment works, or where exactly the sensors should be placed
  • Follow your regular bedtime schedule
  • Remove the sensors when you wake

Although at-home sleep testing can help diagnose sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend an overnight in-lab study for more accurate or thorough results.

Unlike at-home tests, in-lab sleep studies can test for abnormalities in brain waves, eye movements, and leg movements, which can suggest REM (rapid eye movement) sleep behavior disorder, periodic limb movement disorder, or other unusual behaviors that may explain restless sleep, Dr. Musleh said.

To learn more about sleep apnea and sleep studies, please visit the NorthShore Sleep Center.