Healthy Living

Can Sleep Apnea At-Home Studies Provide a Better Patient Outlook?

Can Sleep Apnea Studies at Home Provide a Better Patient Outlook?

With an illness like sleep apnea, the patient may be completely unaware of it, as it occurs while they are sleeping. This could lead to frustration and future health concerns. Sleep apnea is difficult to determine as it symptoms mainly present themselves when the person is asleep. Therefore, to determine whether someone has a sleeping disorder or not, it's important to have someone else observe the individual's sleeping pattern. This might feel uncomfortable, but it is the start to a diagnosis. 

What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or simply known as sleep apnea, is a condition that occurs when the breathing airways are blocked several times during sleep. The airways could be blocked partially or completely. This condition results in restless sleep since a person with this condition can be awakened at the very moment when the breathing airways are being blocked. The worst part about this condition is that you may not be fully conscious that you are actually having a series of awakening during your sleep due to sleep apnea. Because of this, you might wonder why you feel so tired and sleepy the following day. Aside from fatigue and sleepiness, one who has sleep apnea may also have several mood swings since your psychological aspect is also affected by this disorder due to not having enough sleep. This condition might sound horrible; however, there are already a lot of cases that this condition has been treated wherein the patient has fully regained normal sleep during the night. One should only have a proper diagnosis coupled with proper treatment.

What Happens During Sleep Apnea?

When someone is fully awake, the brain would automatically signal the throat, tongue, and other parts that are involved if there is a breathing issue. Therefore, this condition would not likely occur when you are awake since your breathing is normal. However, when you are asleep, there is a tendency that the breathing passage behind the tongue may be blocked, usually due to the sleeping position that you have. This blockage in the breathing airways behind the tongue commonly occurs in most people. However, for people who do not have sleep apnea, their muscles would immediately come to the rescue during this blockage. The muscles would automatically adjust to the blocking condition, which gives way for the air to pass thoroughly. As for the people with sleep apnea, their muscles near the breathing airways that are affected during the blockage are not that active, resulting in episodes of sleep apnea. The air does not reach the lungs, and that is why the breathing would stop.

When we do not get enough air to the lungs, the level of oxygen in our body decreases and the carbon dioxide that we breathe out rises. This makes our breathing stop. However, the brain would immediately wake up and resume breathing. But even though the breathing is already resumed, the airways do not totally resume their normal condition. While the air passes through these airways, it vibrates and creates a sound. This is what we call ‘snoring.’ Therefore, snoring is one of the symptoms of sleep apnea.

How to Check for Sleep Apnea At-Home

Diagnosing sleep apnea cannot only be done by asking your partner to watch over you while asleep. Yes, your partner may witness some murmuring, urging, and snoring when you are asleep, but this is not enough to diagnose that you have sleep apnea. First, you really have to consult your physician about the condition. You may not witness it yourself that you have the major symptom of sleep apnea, which is snoring. However, you might wonder why you are still sleepy even when you just woke up in the morning, or why you feel so tired. These are symptoms of sleep apnea. Therefore, immediately consult your physician and diagnose whether you have sleep apnea or not. 

Researchers and scientists have already found out that a patient could undergo the diagnosing process of sleep apnea in the comfort of their homes. Sleep studies for sleep apnea can be conducted when the patient is sleeping in his or her own bed. This provides a better outlook for the patients since they aren't unsettled about being a hospital during the diagnosing process.

At-Home Studies of Sleep Apnea

Instead of paying high fees for staying in a sleep laboratory, most of the suspected patients that have sleep apnea preferred to have home sleep studies since it is much cheaper. However, Harvard University has cited some disadvantages of having a sleep study for sleep apnea at home. According to Stuart Quan, MD, sleep studies at home cannot record the brain wave activity of the patient during his or her sleep. Brain wave activity may signify important information that is useful in understanding the patient’s condition. Since this cannot be determined in home sleep studies, important information in the patient’s condition may be missed out.

In addition, the process of sleep studies for sleep apnea at home does not require any technician to monitor the device that will be used in the sleep study. Therefore, the patient should be familiarized with the device. Moreover, the home sleep study is not applicable to everyone. Patients who already have a history of heart and lung disease, as well as those with other chronic diseases and sleep disorders, are advised to undergo sleep studies in a sleep laboratory. This is to further monitor the condition of the patients during the sleep study.

Despite these advantages, a lot of patients still prefer to have sleep studies at home because it is more comfortable to be tested in the comfort of their own beds. Even the University of Arizona supports this idea. The University of Arizona Medical Center’s Center for Sleep Disorders offers in-home sleep testing. The patients are given instructions by the sleep center’s technicians on how to operate the electrodes and the sleep study monitor that will be used during their at-home sleep testing. The patient has to administer the test. After the test has been given, the patient is asked to return to the center for the analysis of the study based on the information recorded by the sleep study monitor.

The patients who are diagnosed with sleep apnea using the at-home testing are encouraged to have the treatment immediately. As for those who have negative results, they are still encouraged to undergo sleep studies in a sleep laboratory for second opinions.