July 29, 2014
Sleep Apnea Home Testing
There are some changes taking place in sleep apnea testing. More people are being tested at home rather than being tested in sleep study labs. This is sensible from a cost standpoint and a reality in setting. Many people have strong objections to having wires attached to their head and other places. Then to sleep with an infrared camera watching them is often more than some people will tolerate. Other procedures vary between sleep labs.
“Lots of people are reluctant to let a stranger watch them sleep,” said Dr. Michael Coppola, a former president of the American Sleep Apnea Association who is now the chief medical officer at NovaSom. NovaSom is the manufacturer of a home sleep-test kit that promises to streamline the process. In this blog, this will be the only one discussed. Other brands will be in a future blog, as I am not recommending any one home testing method. Read this blog in the NY Times about this home test.
Strict warnings come with home testing. Using the home sleep apnea test is not recommended for those with heart failure, emphysema, seizures, and a few other health conditions. The home test does not record brain waves as a hospital lab does. A home test can be fooled, but it is useful for many people who exhibit the warning signs of sleep apnea.
Severe apnea can be lethal. By starving the brain of oxygen all night quadruples the risk of stroke. This is the reason to be tested. If you have sleep apnea, you will often be given three alternatives. The first is lose weight, the second is have airway surgery, and the third is sleep with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.
Thank goodness, most sleep doctors do not recommend surgery. For most people surgery seldom solves the problem. If the surgery does not solve the problem, you cannot go back and repair or replace what was removed, plus surgery can be sore and irritating for several months. For some people losing weight will take care of the sleep apnea problem. Most people need to use the CPAP machine. If you use the CPAP and do lose the weight later, then you may be able to stop using the CPAP machine. I would urge talking with the sleep doctor before just stopping.
The NovaSom home testing kit requires three consecutive nights. The device arrives by mail and is returned by mail. You will wire it up yourself. A belt goes around your chest, a finger is poked into a blood-oxygen sensor, and a breath sensor is hooked over the ears and taped beneath the nose. Then each is plugged into a box about the size if a computer modem that is strapped to an arm.
Each morning, the device is plugged in to recharge it and while recharging the night's data is sent to NovaSom. After the three nights and a few days you will receive a call from a doctor as NovaSom, at which time you will be given the results of the test.
Sleep apnea is measured on the apnea/hypopnea index, or how many time per hour a person stops or nearly stops breathing for at least 10 seconds. The guidelines state that below five times per hour is minimal, five to 15 is mild, 15 to 30 is moderate, and more than 30 is severe.
One word of caution, the people promoting home test results may use statements to give you a false sense of security. While it is true that your own home is a more natural setting, claims that the home sleep apnea test kit is more accurate is very questionable. They also claim that lab monitoring creates false sleep scenarios.
From the two sleep studies I have had done, the hospital was the best even though I was watched the entire night. The other lab as not as comfortable, but it still proved I suffered from sleep apnea.