If teething babies, late night chores and catching up on social media are not enough to keep us from sleeping, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – a serious medical condition could be a source of sleepless nights. OSA is a common problem in the United States and can contribute to heart disease, heart damage, lung damage, depression and memory loss. The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that about 20 million people in the United States have OSA. The good news? If you’re diagnosed with OSA, physicians have many ways to successfully treat this disorder.
What’s a sleep study?
The gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnea is a standard sleep study is performed in a sleep laboratory where a person spends the night in a room that has all the comforts of home. During the sleep study, a licensed sleep technician will closely monitor you.
“Our sleep medicine physicians get quite a lot of information about the patient,” says Connie Tsang, MD, a sleep medicine physician with Sleep Medicine Services at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast. The test determines whether someone is suffering from OSA and, if so, how severe the problem is and how much it’s affecting his or her oxygen levels or heart rate. “In addition, our physicians can determine if other sleep disorders are present, such as periodic limb movement or restless legs syndrome, which can disrupt sleep and result in a restless night,” says Dr. Tsang.
In 2007, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recognized a home sleep study as an option for some patients. In a home sleep study, patients sleep in their own bed and are not attached to the same number of sensors as patients who have a study done at a sleep laboratory.
At bedtime, patients wear a special device, which measures their breathing, respiratory efforts and oxygen levels, at the minimum. While home sleep studies tend to be more convenient, they do have some limitations.
“Home sleep studies only test for OSA and don’t provide as much information as a sleep lab study. The rate of missing an OSA diagnosis can be as high as 17 percent,” Dr. Tsang says. “Therefore, if the home study does not show sleep apnea, frequently that person would need to repeat a standard sleep study in the sleep laboratory.”
Home sleep tests aren’t for everyone. AASM says a home sleep study shouldn’t be done without a clinical evaluation of the signs and symptoms of a person’s sleep problems. The Academy recommends that patients see a sleep medicine specialist before having a home study. In addition, certain medical conditions can affect the results of a home sleep study, so these patients would benefit from having a clinical sleep study instead.
Are you at risk?
OSA can result in excessive daytime sleepiness and a potential increased risk for motor vehicle accidents. Not only does OSA affect the quality of your sleep, it can also increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
If you’re concerned that you could have OSA or wonder if a home sleep test is an appropriate option for you, discuss this with your physician. He or she will determine the best option for you or may refer you to a sleep medicine specialist for further evaluation
If you think you may have a sleep disorder, speak with your personal physician who can refer you for a sleep study, or to learn more click here.