Sleep Apnea Test - You deserve a quality sleep, none the less

Sleep Apnea

In order to fully understand the test, it is important to know what Sleep Apnea itself is.

Apnea (or apnoea) comes from Greek word meaning "to breathe". It is a term used for suspension of breathing.

Sleep Apnea is a common sleeping condition where person’s breathing pauses for a good few seconds and sometimes stretches to minutes. This is a dangerous pause, but usually the breathing restarts with a choke or snort. This pause can occur multiple times within an hour. Because of lower oxygen supplied to brain and lower quality of sleep, forgetfullness and daytime drowsiness are often observed, and consequently, these people are 6 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.

There are basically 3 types of sleep apnea:

OSA is the most common type and is frequently accompanied by snoring. Snoring in itself is harmless for the snorer (although not so much for people around them), but is indicative of the group of sleep disorders termed as SDB (Sleep Disordered Breathing) and if not treated, may lead to OSA (so in a way, it may be a sleap apnea symptom).

Daddy, stop snoring! Photo credit: Daddy, stop snoring!

A research says that 30% of people beyond age of 30 snore and men are twice more likely to do so than women. When it comes to couples, 59% say that their partner snores. A study shows that effectiveness of partner's sleep can be reduced by 1 hour because of this disturbing process. A term known as SUS (Socially Unacceptable Snoring) refers to snorer preventing partner from sleeping and is among the reasons why a number of long term relationships and marriages fail.

As was said earlier, snoring does not necessarily indicate, but can lead to Sleep Apnea condition. Patients with OSA are up to 4 times more likely to have a stroke and 3 times more likely to have a heart disease. It's probability is roughly at 3% and simple treatments can reduce it by as much as 20%. Last but not least, half of patients affected by sleep apnea, upon diagnosis are identified to also have essential hypertension.

What causes Sleep Apnea?

Causes of Sleep Apnea Photo credit: Sleepy

Everyone has a risk of having sleep apnea, but following factors are either considered as important causes of sleep apnea or statistically are known to be indicative of the condition:

  • Being overweight

  • Gender: males are (statistically) more prone

  • Being related to someone who has sleep apnea

  • Age: People over the age of 50 are more likely

  • Large tongue and tonsils

  • Smoking

  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)

  • A thick neck

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Initially, it is recommended to start with lifestyle changes, things like losing weight, becoming a non-smoker, etc. If these methods don't work for you, it is best to consult a doctor. Followings are frequent methods of treatment:

  • Positional Therapy: Condition of sleep apnea patients may worsen because of sleeping on their back (supine position) and purpose of positional therapy is to alter sleeping position.

  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure): CPAP is the most common treatment of sleep apnea. It makes use of breathing apparatus (there are some experimental non-mask options as well), providing continuous stream of air and keeping pathways open. ResMed is one of top manufacturers for CPAP machine models and CPAP masks. Philips Respironics CPAP masks are widely used as well. There are some portable CPAP machines as well, if required. CPAP supplies (e.g. mask kits, chinstraps, headgear, cushion pillows etc.) can easily be found in online stores.

  • BiPap (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure): Is mostly considered when CPAP proves unsuccessful. It uses more complex device and allows variable pressure, between inhalation and exhalation. Philips Respironics and ResMed are among the top manufacturers that have quite a large BiPAP machine and BiPAP mask selection. As in the case of CPAP, you can easily find supplies online.

  • Surgery: Surgery for sleep apnea is mostly a last resort as complications are possible. It involves removal of tissues to allow easier movement of the air. Most common type of sleep apnea surgery is Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP).

Diagnosis - Sleep Apnea Test

The Sleep Apnea Test, medically termed as polysomnogram, is a diagnosis method to determine the physical activities and records electronic transmissions during the patient’s sleep. The sleep apnea test is conducted by a sleep specialist and the full analysis is used for the diagnosis of Sleep Apnea. There is a series of other tests, in case the patient results are positive in Sleep Apnea, which is performed for planning a suitable treatment method.

Sleep Apnea Test Equipment and Procedure

During the night when the patient undergoes the test, a separate room is provided for them to sleep in, by the laboratory. There is a complicated monitor that records the sleeping activity of the patient in detail, like the heartbeat, movement, brain waves and breathing. Most of the patients drift into a deep sleep easily however, others might feel uncomfortable.

The equipment consists of surface electrodes that are placed on the face and scalp of the patient with sleeping disorder. The electrical signals are recorded which are then transmitted to the measuring machine. These signals represent the muscular and brain activity and are represented digitally in the device. Belts are placed around the abdomen and chest and they monitor the breathing pattern. An oximeter is used for measuring the concentration of oxygen in blood through finger.

Some doctors recommend EEG (Electroencephalogram), EMG (Electromyogram), ECG (Electrocardiogram), EOG (Electrooculogram), Nasal airflow sensing or snore microphone for studying the sleeping condition in depth.

Sleep Apnea Test Options

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options Photo credit: Patient-Arzt-Gespräch

Following are the two methods of Sleep Apnea Test which depends on the patient’s ease and comfort:

  • In-lab overnight Sleep Apnea Test: In this test, the patient is required to stay in a sleep center for a night, on a bed resembling a hotel room. There are different sensors which are hooked to the patient’s body parts. This type of diagnosis study is recommended by doctors when they are looking at a complex case. The in-lab study assists the doctor in understanding the complete sleeping pattern overnight. This is an expensive option but can be easily covered by health insurance.

  • Home Sleep Apnea Test: Some patients suffer from risk of obstructive sleep apnea disorder. If they aren’t prone to any other medical diseases, then home based sleep apnea test is an appropriate option. This makes it easy for the patient to sleep in the comfort of their own residence. A small monitor, which is different from the one used in in-lab procedure, monitors the sleeping activity. The sleep study staff explains the wiring and this monitor is returned back to them after the test. This sleeping test method is less expensive and complicated.

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