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When Is Time To Take The Sleep Apnea Test?

Do you think you need to take a sleep apnea test but you aren’t quite sure? We think we might be able to help with that.

Millions of people around the world suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that causes disruptions in breathing during sleep. Left untreated, it can lead to a number of health problems. However, not everyone knows whether they suffer from it or not, which is why we thought we should talk to you about a sleep apnea test you can take at home.

In this article, we’ll talk about what sleep apnea is, how you can test for it at home ,when you should test for it and what you can do to improve your symptoms if you are diagnosed with the condition.

If that sounds like something that you’d like to know more about, stick around for a few more minutes because we might just have some answers for you.

Table of Contents
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    What is a sleep apnea test?

    Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can cause disruptions in breathing during sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by obstruction of the airway. Next up on the list of apnea sleep disorders is central sleep apnea – a more severe sleep apnea diagnosis.

    An image of a young man using oxygen therapy to overcome sleep apnea.

    The test is simple. It’s a non-invasive overnight sleep study that you can do to determine if you have sleep-disordered breathing. The test called polysomnography is done overnight at the doctor’s office, lab, or a sleep center and it measures your breathing patterns, heart rate and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. If you have OSA, the test will show that your breathing slows or stops during sleep. However, this test can be quite expensive and hard to get an appointment for, so there are some alternatives.

    issues with snoring pillow

    Can I take a sleep apnea test at home?

    Yes. You can take a sleep apnea test at home and outside of a sleep clinic.

    The at-home sleep apnea test is simple and non-invasive. It measures your breathing, heart rate and blood oxygen levels while you sleep (sort of), just like the regular one you do at a doctor’s office.

    However, there are some drawbacks to this at-home test, but we’ll get to those a bit later.

    How does the at-home sleep apnea test work?

    In order to conduct at-home sleep tests, you’ll need a device called an oximeter. This is a small, wearable device that measures your blood oxygen levels.

    You’ll probably need to download an app that will track your sleep and breathing patterns, too. Once you have both of these things, you’re ready to take the at-home sleep test for OSA.

    However, all of this is easier said than done. To actually do this, you’ll have to follow certain steps.

    Get a prescription

    First of all, you’ll need a prescription. This is not an over-the-counter test you can just buy at the pharmacy. You’ll need to talk to your doctor about it first and get a prescription, and only then will you be able to move on to the next step – which is taking the test.

    An image of a patient giving a prescription to a pharmacologist.

    Take the test

    To take the test, simply attach the pulse oximeter to your finger and wear it overnight. The app will track your sleep and breathing patterns and will give you an AHI score based on how often your breathing was disrupted during sleep.

    An image of an Asian man sleeping and wearing cpap mask.

    An AHI score of 5 or higher is considered to be indicative of mild obstructive sleep apnea. On that same note, a score of 15 to 30 is indicative of moderate obstructive sleep apnea, and anything over 30 is indicative of severe OSA.

    However, this is not a definitive diagnosis – only a doctor can give you that. Which is the next step for you to take.

    Review results with the specialized doctor

    Once you have your results, it’s time to review them with a sleep specialist. He or she will be able to give you a more accurate diagnosis and will be able to prescribe the right treatment, such as CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) or OAT (Oral Appliance Therapy), depending on the severity of your sleep apnea.

    Why is a sleep apnea test at home good?

    Sure, this is an alternative option, and as an alternative, you can probably guess that it is not as good as the polysomnography conducted in the hospital setting. However, there are some pretty great benefits that come with it.

    Affordable

    A big advantage of this test is that it is way more affordable than the hospital one. They can cost between 100 and 500 pounds, but there’s a really good chance that your insurance is going to cover the costs, so you won’t even have to spend a quid.

    Convenient

    Another big advantage is that it is really convenient. You can do it in the comfort of your own home, and you don’t have to go to a hospital or sleep clinic for it. You can just attach the pulse oximeter to your finger before you go to bed and take it off when you wake up in the morning.

    Low wait time

    There’s often a very long waiting list for a polysomnogram, and if you’re really struggling with OSA and you’d like to treat it as soon as you can – waiting is not an option. Well, with an at-home kit, you won’t have to wait. Get a prescription, get a kit, and you’re done. You’ll be done in a few days.

    Is a sleep apnea test less accurate than the test performed at the hospital?

    Yes. The test conducted at home is not as accurate as the one performed at the hospital. Let us elaborate.

    The accuracy of the sleep apnea test at home depends on a number of factors, such as the quality of the oximeter and the app you use. However, in general, the test is not as accurate as the one performed in a hospital setting, and that has nothing to do with the oximeter or the app.

    The main reason why these testing kits aren’t as accurate as the one conducted at the hospital is that at-home kits can’t really determine whether you’re asleep or not. It can only track your breathing and heart rate, which is not enough to make an accurate or a definitive diagnosis or provide 100% accurate findings.

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    Signs that confirm you should take the sleep apnea test

    Now that we’re all familiar with the tests, let us move on to something different – how do you know it might be the time for you to take the test? Are there signs that point to it?

    In fact, yes, there are. Here are some of them!

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    Excessive daytime sleepiness

    If you find yourself dozing off during the day more often than you’d like to admit, it might be a sign that you have sleep apnea. Excessive daytime sleepiness is one of the most common symptoms and it is often what leads people to take the test in the first place.

    An image of A handsome sleepy Asian woman.

    Insomnia

    If you can’t catch the ZZZs at night, that’s another sign that you might be suffering from sleep apnea. People with insomnia often find it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night, which can lead to daytime sleepiness, amongst many other things. Either way, if you’re struggling with insomnia – you might as well do the test.

    an image of a woman suffering from insomnia caused by nightmares

    Loud snoring

    If your partner (or anyone else who sleeps in the same room as you) tells you that you snore loudly, it’s time for you to take the test. Snoring is often one of the first and most noticeable symptoms of sleep apnea.

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    Waking up with a dry mouth

    Waking up with a dry mouth is also one of the symptoms of OSA. If you’re having difficulties breathing during the night, chances are, you’re going to end up breathing through your mouth, which will result in dry mouth and a horrible morning breath.

    An image of a woman having problems with swallowing.

    Waking up with headaches

    Waking up with a headache in the morning is another sign that you might be suffering from sleep apnea. If you’re struggling to breathe during the night, it’s only natural that you’re going to wake up with a headache. Lack of oxygen could lead to an array of symptoms, and this is one of the first ones that occur.

    an image of a woman having a headache due to teeth grinding

    Waking up gasping for air

    If you wake up gasping for air, it’s a sign that you’re not getting enough oxygen during the night. This is obviously not good, and it’s something that you should take care of as soon as possible. And, as far as we’re concerned, the first step should be taking the at-home test.

    An image of a young woman wears a breathing mask.

    Things you can do to reduce obstructive sleep apnea frequency

    If you’ve been diagnosed with OSA – don’t panic. This condition is treatable. If your condition is severe, you’ll probably end up with some medication, but if you’re in the mild to moderate category, you might see an improvement if you just follow these few simple tips.

    Sleep on side

    If you’re struggling with sleep apnea, sleeping on your side might be the solution for you. This is because sleeping on your back allows your tongue and throat muscles to relax, which could lead to obstruction. Sleeping on your side, however, can help keep your airway open and prevent obstruction. Just make sure you get a comfortable and supportive pillow, otherwise, you may end up with neck problems on top of your OSA.

    An image of a young woman sleeping on left side.

    Lose some weight

    Losing weight might be the solution for OSA. This is because being overweight can put pressure on your neck and throat, which could lead to obstruction and difficulty breathing. Also, overweight people tend to sleep on their backs, which further aggravates the issue. Losing weight, however, can help reduce the amount of pressure on your neck and throat, and it could help improve your symptoms.

    Stop drinking alcohol & smoking cigarettes

    Drinking and smoking can both contribute to your symptoms. Alcohol messes with your throat and tongue muscles (amongst many other things it does), which could lead to obstruction. Cigarettes, on the other hand, can inflame your airways and make it difficult for you to breathe. If you’re struggling with sleep apnea, quitting alcohol & cigarettes might be the best thing you can do.

    A male's hand over the glass of alcohol.

    Exercise everyday

    Exercising every day can solve a lot more than just your sleep apnea. It can help improve your overall health, your mood, and it can even help you lose weight. All of these things can lead to a reduction in your symptoms. Also, exercises that tone your jaw, tongue or throat muscles might be particularly helpful in improving your condition. Just make sure you consult with a speech therapist before you start, because gnawing on a rubber ball won’t do much, contrary to what social media might have you believe.

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