The first step of diagnosing Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is to see your doctor if you are experiencing signs of fatigue and tiredness during your normal daily activities. If you are regularly receive seven to eight hours of nightly sleep, and you are not waking up refreshed, ready to tackle a new day, then your body is telling you something. You might be waking up hundreds of times per night in micro-episodes, more commonly known as hypopneas. Essentially, the air flow to your lungs is cut off because the passage ways in your throat have collapsed, causing you to choke and sputter, but not wake up. If this occurrence of events sounds like it might be happening, your first step will be to see a doctor.
The Traditional Sleep Lab
If your doctor agrees with your assessment, he or she will prescribe a sleep test. There are two main types of sleep test. The first, and more traditional, is a lab-based sleep test where you go for overnight testing to perform an assessment as to the severity of your Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This setting is usually called a, “Sleep Lab.” Once there, the attendant will attach various wires to you in an attempt to measure restfulness, oxygen levels, and other vital indicators. A total count of your hypopneas will be monitored, and after the test is complete, the results will be sent to a specialized sleep doctor to interpret the results. The problem with traditional sleep tests in Sleep Labs is that often, patients do not receive a quality night’s rest because of the new environment and intrusive monitoring equipment. As a result, there are more false positive results and some patients who might not have sleep apnea are encouraged to start continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy when they normally do not need the treatment.
The Home Sleep Test
The other alternative is a home sleep test. It is everything that the traditional lab-based sleep test is not. You’re allowed to stay in your own bed and the only difference is to wear a small electronic device that will monitor your restfulness levels through the night. The next morning, you can send the device back to a registered sleep lab to assess the night’s sleep quality and determine whether or not you’re a candidate for CPAP or Oral Appliance therapy. Patients strongly prefer this method since it’s non-invasive and only costs a fraction of what Sleep Labs normally charge. The technology is now robust enough to consistently and accurately assess a patient’s needs in the comfort of his or her own home without having to venture out to a sleep lab, and is quickly becoming the more popular option.
Of course, the above comparison is not an exhaustive resource, but hopefully you now have a better idea of the different sleep tests available. If you have individual concerns, it is best to speak with your doctor to determine what is best for your individual needs.