Diagnosing Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Many people wonder just what testing they have to do for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The answer is that the majority of people will need to have an overnight sleep study in a sleep laboratory. Although there are home testing devices available now that let doctors test patients at home, these devices do not give all the results of testing in a lab.
There are a few steps involved in testing and diagnosis for OSA. The first step is screening. You may visit the doctor and you complain of being sleepy during the daytime. Maybe your spouse or significant other complains of your loud snoring or you stop breathing at night sometimes. You may even have been asked to fill out a sleep screening questionnaire. All these can lead your doctor to suspect you may have obstructive sleep apnea. Your doctor may then refer you to a sleep specialist for further evaluation or refer you directly to a sleep lab for testing, or they may try a home sleep test to evaluate your need for a sleep study in a lab.
Home Sleep Testing
If your doctor decides you need a home sleep test you will be instructed on how to apply the device at bedtime. These devices are simple to apply yourself. The device will monitor your breathing, oxygen saturation, and heart rate. Breathing is monitored by a pressure transducer and additionally on some devices a belt that goes around your chest. Your heart rate and blood oxygen level are measured by a pulse oximetry sensor that applies to the finger. None of these sensors are invasive or painful, but they may take a while to get comfortable enough with to go to sleep. You need to sleep a minimum of 4 hours with the device gathering data for an acceptable test. 6 hours or more is ideal. Then you wake up and remove the device the next morning and take it back to your doctor or testing location. The results are downloaded for the doctor to evaluate. More and more insurance companies are requiring a home sleep test before a test in a sleep laboratory due to the decreased cost.
Laboratory Sleep Testing
If your doctor refers you to a laboratory for testing fear not. Many people are scared of any type of medical tests. Sleep testing is not painful. It may be slightly uncomfortable due to the sensors that are attached at first, yet most people have no problem sleeping through the night. The testing performed in a sleep lab gives the physician much more information than the at home test. In addition to the parameters measured with the home test, the laboratory test measures your brain waves, eye movements, limb movements, and other parameters. The testing done in the laboratory can tell the doctor when you are in the most restful stages of REM sleep. It can tell the doctor whether you are having obstructive sleep apnea and can also diagnose a host of other sleep issues.
If you are having sleep problems it is important to talk to your doctor about the problem. Many people experience relief of symptoms and increased well being after being treated for OSA. If you are diagnosed with OSA, there are several treatment options available. Don’t wait to get tested. Every day you delay may be causing additional health issues like high blood pressure or heart disease.