Your Night in the Sleep Laboratory
How to Test for Sleep Apnea at Home
Home sleep apnea tests are a relatively new option that doctors use to help diagnose sleep disorders in patients. The benefits of home sleep apnea tests are that they remove the requirement of you having to spend a night or afternoon in a hospital or sleep study center. Ultimately, by consulting your doctor, using a sleep monitor correctly, and returning the monitor in a timely fashion, you’ll be able to help your doctor arrive at a diagnosis of sleep apnea.
Seeing if You Have Sleep Apnea
Get your Snore Score.The American Sleep Apnea Association has a questionnaire you can complete to calculate your “snore score.” These questions gauge the severity of your snoring. Ultimately, they’ll give you an idea of whether you have healthy sleeping patterns or not.
- Access the questionnaire at:
Measure yourself on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.Like the Snore Score, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale gauges your sleep health and sleep patterns. By answering questions based on a 0 to 3 ranking system, the scale will give you an idea of whether you have sleep apnea and its severity.
- Access the Epworth Sleepiness Scale at:
Take the Berlin Sleep Questionnaire.The Berlin Sleep Questionnaire is more like the Epworth Scale than the Snore Score. The questionnaire includes 10 questions with multiple choice answers. To determine your sleep health, you assign points based on question responses. In the end, your calculations will determine whether you are high risk or low risk for sleep apnea.
- Access the questionnaire at:
Consult your doctor.If these questionnaires indicate a potential problem, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will ask you questions about your sleep health and patterns. If your doctor believes you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), they will either arrange a Home Sleep Test (HST) or refer you to a doctor who can.
Using a Home Sleep Test Monitor
Secure the monitor to your abdomen.After your doctor gets you the HST device, you’ll have to take it home and secure it to yourself. The monitor will come equipped with elastic straps and bands that you’ll need to secure around your abdomen and chest. These straps also come equipped with sensors that help monitor your breathing and the effort your body puts into respiration.
- In most cases, the apnea monitor should fit snuggly above your stomach and at the lower part of your breast bone.
Put on the finger monitor.The finger monitor is a small device you’ll need to clip on the tip of your index finger. The monitor keeps track of your blood oxygen level during sleep. Without data from the finger monitor, you won’t have the information you need to determine if you have sleep apnea.
Attach the nasal tubes.Secure the nasal tubes to your nose. In many cases, you’ll have two tubes that you’ll need to insert slightly into your nostrils. These tubes will help gauge your air flow and breathing regularity. You’ll also have an elastic band you will need to secure around your neck or face.
- Take time to make sure nasal tubes are completely secured. This is the piece of equipment that is most likely to fall off while you sleep.
Turn on the monitor.When you’re ready to go to sleep, press the “on” button on your monitor. Depending on the model of the device, the button will look different or be positioned in a different location. However, your doctor should instruct you on which button to press.
Verify that all the pieces of the monitor are in position.Before you go to sleep, and throughout the night when you wake up, check to see that the monitor, nasal tubes, and finger attachment are still attached properly. This is important, as some parts of the monitor could come loose from your body while you sleep.
Avoid stimulants.This includes caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and cola. In addition, you should avoid products that contain nicotine like cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. Consuming products with stimulants will undermine your ability to sleep.
- Consider avoiding sugary drinks.
Take medication as usual.If you take medication at night, you should continue doing so when you take your sleep apnea test. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some examples of medications you can continue to take include: anxiety medication, heart medication, and medication intended to help you sleep.
- Consult your doctor if you have any questions about how a medication might influence your sleep study.
Returning the Monitor and Getting Your Results
Remove your monitor in the morning.Once you wake up in the morning, switch the monitor off (by pressing the same button you used to turn it on), and carefully remove each piece of equipment from your body. Return the monitor and the sensors to the container they came in.
- Your doctor may ask you to use the monitor for between one and three nights. You should make sure that you turn off and put away the monitor every morning.
Return the monitor.After you've concluded your sleep test, you need to return the monitor to your doctor or diagnostic company in a timely manner. This might include dropping it off at their office, or mailing it in. It is important to return the monitor as soon as possible, so you can get results back quickly.
- Your doctor may instruct you to return the monitor the morning after your test.
Wait for the results.Depending on your method of returning the monitor, it could take from several days to several weeks to get your results back. During this time, a diagnostic service company will download the data from the HST monitor, analyze the results, and send a report to your doctor, who will make a formal diagnosis.
Follow your doctor's recommendation.Once your doctor has the results of your study, they'll either order more testing (like another sleep study), or they'll inform you that you have sleep apnea. Depending on whether you have mild, moderate, or severe sleep apnea, they'll recommend a specific course of treatment. They may:
- Recommend you use a CPAP machine, which will continually blow oxygen through your nostrils and help keep your airways open while you sleep.
- Suggest surgery. For some people, sleep apnea may be alleviated through surgery. Very often, this takes the form of nasal surgery to improve your ability to breathe through your nose.
- Ask you to lose weight. For some patients, weight loss can decrease the severity of sleep apnea.
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