How can I test for sleep apnea at home?

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Answered by: Robert, An Expert in the Sleep Disorders Category
Snoring is not a laughing matter; snoring can be the sound of someone struggling to breathe at night. When a person who snores falls asleep, the muscles in their throat relax and cause blockages in their airway. Some people even stop breathing for a minute or two; this disrupts their sleep pattern and keeps their blood pressure elevated throughout the night.

It can be tough to figure out if your snoring is a problem; the majority of sufferers have no idea that they are not sleeping well. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, then you may have a snoring problem:

- Gasping for breath during sleep

- Stop breathing for periods during the night

- Chronic drowsiness

- Irritability

If you exhibit these symptoms, then it is likely that you have a snoring problem; it is a good idea to investigate further and figure out what you can do to fix it.

Snoring Or Sleep Apnea?

Regular snoring is not very harmful: it is estimated that about 45 percent of the population snores at one time or another. Snoring is one of the biggest indicators that a person is suffering from sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that often goes undiagnosed; this happens because people think that it is just regular snoring and not a big deal. Sleep apnea has been linked to weight gain, heart attacks, strokes and daytime fatigue.

Up until recently, there was no real easy way to diagnose sleep apnea. If you wanted to diagnose sleep apnea, you had to visit a sleep center. In these centers, people get hooked up to various machines to monitor them during the time they slept. Spending a couple of nights in a sleep center while being monitored is not most people's idea of a good time.

Recently, Medicare and some insurers have started to cover tests that can be taken from the comfort of your own home; you no longer have to make a trip out to a sleep center and spend your night in an unfamiliar bed.

Testing For Sleep Apnea At Home

At home tests usually require a person to attach a couple of sensors to their fingers, forehead and chest to measure the amount of oxygen in their blood when they sleep. The tests will show a person if they have low blood oxygen levels. Low oxygen levels occurs when you stop breathing during the night; it is a good sign that you are struggling to breathe while sleeping. The sensors also measure how much a person tosses and turn during the night.

Some tests include a tube that is attached below your nose; the tube measures and records the volume of your snores and the air flowing through your nose. This can give your doctor a good idea of any blockages that you may have.

Is Home Testing Reliable?

Home testing does not use as many sensors as a professional test. The test is usually done over a span of three nights; studies done have shown the tests to be about 97 percent accurate. These tests typically are in the $200 to $600 range; comparable tests at a sleep clinic cost anywhere from $800 to $3,000.

At home testing is accurate; to save costs, many insurance companies are starting to require an at home test as the first step before they cover any in-lab testing. The only thing that at-home tests lack is a brain wave monitor; this may cause the machine to overestimate the amount of time sleeping and underestimate the amount of times you stop breathing.

Experts believe that at-home testing will enable millions of people to get help. Home testing will bring to light the problems that many people have with sleep apnea; home tests are a convenient way to get a grip on your snoring and figure out if it really is as bad as you think.

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