Sleep Apnea Testing in Your Own Bed

Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and you feel tired even after a full night's sleep.

During sleep, people with this condition will literally stop breathing for periods of several seconds to minutes. These episodes cause lack of oxygen to the brain and have many ill effects including excessive daytime tiredness even after a full night’s sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects millions of Americans. Sleep apnea patients commonly suffer from low oxygen levels in the blood, high blood pressure and an overall decrease in the quality of life due to daytime drowsiness and headaches. Left untreated it can even cause heart disease, stroke, memory loss, headaches and cognitive impairment.

OSA occurs when the airway temporarily collapses during sleep, preventing or restricting breathing for up to 10 seconds or more.  Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. Such events can occur several hundred times a night, severely disrupting sleep. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. As a result, sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Until recently testing for sleep apnea required spending a night in a sleep laboratory, inconvenient and expensive process for diagnosing this serious problem. In addition to the costs and inconenience, there is also the question of whether sleeping in a strange bed in a strange place with electrodies connected to your head can actually duplicate the sleep you get in the comfort of your own home and bed. We offer an effective alternative with a take-home device for testing.

This device, the Watermark ARES, records heart rate, oxygen saturation, brain waves (to determine the level of sleep one is in,) head movements, and loudness of snoring (through a microphone – only tuned into how loud sounds are, not what they’re saying.) This device has been shown to be as accurate in diagnosing sleep apnea as traditional overnight sleep apnea testing.

The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Attention problems

When to see a doctor

Consult a medical professional if you experience, or if your partner notices, the following:

  • Snoring loud enough to disturb the sleep of others or yourself
  • Shortness of breath that awakens you from sleep
  • Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you're working, watching television or even driving

Sleep Apnea Risk Assessment Quiz


Hillbrook Family Medicine

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