If you have ever wondered whether you have sleep apnea, the best way to find out is by participating in a sleep study at a sleep lab or in your own home. A sleep study helps you unlock the secret to a deeper sleep by measuring various key metrics throughout the night. This test records everything from the amount of oxygen in your blood to your body’s position at different times.

So, if you think you’re not sleeping how you should or are tired of feeling tired, learn how a sleep study could be your first step toward restful nights and brighter days.

The Importance of Diagnosing Sleep Apnea Early

As Dr. Rachelle Brown at Sleep Apnea Solutions puts it, if your snoring has become a topic of discussion, it is best to think of it as your body sending out an SOS signal. It is critical to take it seriously and get yourself evaluated by your primary care provider or dental sleep practitioner because sleep apnea tends to sneak up on you.

What you may think is stress from a busy schedule could be undiagnosed sleep apnea that will eventually turn into bigger problems, like increased risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, or hypertension that does not respond to medications. Catching it early lets you nip these issues in the bud and keep your body healthier in the long run.

Not to mention, suffering from sleep apnea is like trying to go through your day with an uncharged battery. You feel worn out, find it hard to focus, and get grumpy over little things, which makes it difficult to manage your interpersonal and work relationships. Recent research confirms this: about 54% of people with obstructive sleep apnea have some degree of anxiety, while 46% have depression, which is significantly higher than the general population. This is unsurprising, considering your sleep is closely linked to your mental and cognitive health.  

And if staying on top of preventative health measures does not convince you, think about this: the fatigue that comes with sleep apnea is responsible for causing 13% of all workplace accidents. If your job requires you to drive large vehicles or operate heavy machinery, having untreated sleep apnea not only puts you at risk but also those around you.

The Different Types of Sleep Studies

Various tests or sleep studies give your doctor valuable insights into how your body behaves during sleep. Depending on your symptoms and how your physical examination goes, your provider may recommend one or more of these tests to really get to the bottom of your sleep issues.

Polysomnography (PSG)

This is the most comprehensive type of sleep study in a sleep lab where you spend the night. Here, lab technicians monitor several body functions throughout the duration, including brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing, and eye and leg movements. If your doctor suspects you might have other sleep disorders in addition to sleep apnea (like restless legs syndrome, sleep paralysis, etc.), or if your sleep apnea symptoms are complex and involve other chronic health issues, a lab study might be recommended.

Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT)

Since most patients have mild or moderate cases of sleep apnea without any other underlying conditions, home sleep studies have become increasingly popular for their convenience. As the name suggests, you can take this test at home! Although these tests are specifically designed to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, unlike the lab test, they can also catch a host of sleep behaviors known as parasomnias.

You can order the test equipment online and get it delivered to your doorstep. It comes with the following:

Do not be intimidated by all these sensors; they are extremely easy to use and only take a few minutes to set up. After you wake up and the test is completed, sleep specialists automatically download and analyze the data to diagnose whether you have sleep apnea and, if so, how severe it is. There is no need to schedule a lab test or spend the night in an unfamiliar environment – the entire process can be done from your own couch.

Who Needs to Undergo a Sleep Study?

If you are showing the following signs, which could mean you are not breathing properly during sleep, a sleep study is the best way to understand what is going on.

Loud, Persistent Snoring

Snoring can be harmless for many, but when you make high-pitched sounds that disrupt others’ sleep, it could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Feeling unusually tired during the day, despite “sleeping” for 7-8 hours each night, may mean you have sleep apnea.

Observed Breathing Interruptions

If someone has noticed that you stop breathing while sleeping or if you wake up gasping or choking, these are also strong indications of sleep apnea.

Difficulty Staying Asleep

Frequent awakenings or insomnia — trouble falling asleep or staying asleep — can also be explored in a sleep study.

Unrefreshing Sleep

The most common symptom of sleep apnea is waking up feeling unrested, no matter how much time you spend in bed.

Unusual Behaviors During Sleep

Sleepwalking, talking during sleep, or experiencing nightmares might suggest a condition known as REM sleep behavior disorder or other sleep-related issues.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

If you have uncomfortable sensations in your legs and a strong urge to move them, particularly in the evenings and during rest, this might be RLS. A sleep study can help diagnose it and how it affects your sleep.

Morning Headaches

Waking up with headaches may sometimes be related to changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood that occur with sleep apnea.

High Blood Pressure

If you have hypertension that is difficult to control, in addition to some of the other symptoms, it could be linked to sleep apnea.

How to Interpret Your Sleep Study Results

Whether you do the sleep study in your own home or a sleep lab, the data collected will be examined by sleep specialists. Your test report will include how much time you spent in the various stages of sleep — light sleep, deep sleep, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It will also mention how long it took you to fall asleep (sleep latency) and how often you woke up during the night (wake after sleep onset).

Another key metric it will contain is your Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI). It shows the average number of apneas (complete stoppage of breathing) and hypopneas (partial reduction in breathing) per hour of sleep. An AHI of 5-15 is considered mild sleep apnea, 15-30 is moderate, and over 30 is severe.

Even home-based sleep studies today are advanced enough to track factors like a drop in your blood oxygen levels, fluctuations in your heart rate, and the intensity and frequency of snoring. Based on these findings, it is easy to diagnose whether or not you have sleep apnea or another sleep-breathing disorder.

What Comes After a Sleep Study?

If it’s confirmed that you have a sleep disorder, your primary care physician will guide you toward the best treatment options, or they may refer you to a sleep specialist. Here at Sleep Apnea Solutions, we exclusively treat patients for obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy.

There is more than one way to treat sleep apnea. Just because CPAP or BiPAP therapy is quite a well-known treatment, it does not mean you have no other options. We highly recommend oral appliance therapy if you cannot tolerate CPAP therapy. 

In addition to your main treatment, you may also want to look at your current lifestyle. There are several steps you can take right now to alleviate some of your sleep apnea symptoms:

Need Help Booking Your Home Sleep Study? Contact Us.

If you suspect that your breathing is irregular, trust Sleep Apnea Solutions to guide you on the right path. Our team is here for you and ready to get you sleeping well again.