If you or your partner have recognised that you have a sleep problem; this could be snoring, waking up choking or gasping, or even waking up in the morning still feeling tired, then these are some of the alert signals that could suggest you might have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
OSA is a fairly common condition that, if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Home Sleep Tests can identify OSA, are simple to perform, and done quickly with a high degree of accuracy in the comfort of your own bed.
The most accurate method for diagnosing OSA is Polysomnography, (PSG), but it is a cumbersome and expensive test and entails overnight visits to a sleep clinic where multiple sensors are used to monitor a wide array of functions. Some patients undergoing PSG may experience anxiety and discomfort associated with sleeping outside of the home environment. Depending on the geographic location, PSG might be unavailable or there might be a long wait time before a patient can undergo this test
A well-validated, easy to perform, and much less expensive alternative is the home sleep test (HST).
This is especially beneficial for patients who might feel anxious staying overnight in a sleep laboratory for PSG. The HST has fewer sensors, is more compact, and is less cumbersome to perform. A technologist is not needed to monitor the patient during the HST. Given the prevalence of OSA, as discussed earlier, the HST can be a useful tool for primary care providers to evaluate their patients suspected to have this disorder. The HST can aid in the early diagnosis and initiation of treatment in these patients.
Following on from the basis of a simple questionnaire, this type of Home Sleep Test involves ‘Finger Pulse Oximetry’ which monitors your heart rate and blood oxygen levels during the night, and looks for deviations and abnormalities that can identify obstructive sleep apnoea.
A Finger Pulse Oximeter is small, wrist worn medical device with a finger pulse sensor, that records your heart rate and blood oxygen levels whilst you sleep, and when you have an ‘apnoea’, your airway is blocked momentarily and your oxygen levels drop accordingly. Your heart rate is also directly affected because you cannot temporarily breathe. The Finger Pulse Oximeter is able to identify when this happens and importantly, how many times it happens whilst you sleep. All of that data is recorded on the device and is downloaded to be analysed and interpreted by a qualified sleep technician from the provider of the rented Oximeter.
Sleep studies are becoming more and more common everywhere in the world as the incidence of OSA increases. In the UK alone, tens of thousands of people do a sleep study every year. It is painless, very simple to do and provides extremely valuable information as to how you are sleeping. The Home Sleep Study is very similar to the majority of those done on the NHS, in so far as it uses similar equipment, standards and methods for determining the outcome. The main difference is there is very little waiting time.
It is always a totally confidential service and the only person who will receive the study report is the person ordering the study.
In the past all sleep studies required overnight stays in hospitals beds, and sometimes still do. In these cases the patient was often wired up like a lab monkey in order to record a ‘normal’ nights sleep! Home sleep studies can operate a proven in-home service that enables patients to wear minimalistic equipment that can still adequately record sleep but in the comfort of their own bed. It is far easier to sleep ‘normally’ in your own bed than in a foreign setting and that fact means the data recorded is likely to be more accurate and realistic.
If you think that your sleep is a problem, then a Home Sleep Test is a wise move in case you are suffering from OSA. After all, the statistics show that currently 80% of all cases of sleep apnoea go undiscovered, and therefore untreated, with the subsequent serious threat to your future health.
With a Home Sleep Test, that won’t be the case, and sleep apnoea can then be controlled and even prevented.