Home testing for sleep apnea
Published: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 18, 2014 at 1:39 p.m.
Q: I have trouble sleeping because I snore so much. My wife says I could have sleep apnea. I just read an article about at-home testing kits. Are any of them any good? I really don't want to go to a sleep clinic (it sounds creepy). Any advice?
— John W., Stuart
A: We know that sleeping on your back in a hospital bed, attached to a dozen wires with people staring at you in the dark can cause anxiety, and even errant readings, but a sleep clinic is a good place to have your snoring evaluated. They can diagnose you and set up a treatment program that could save your life!
Obstructive sleep apnea happens when your airway becomes blocked while you sleep. In addition to snoring, gasping and choking, it can cause low blood oxygen levels and increase your risk for heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure; diabetes and obesity; and mental health problems that go along with disturbed sleep.
But if you're reluctant to go to a sleep clinic, using an at-home testing kit can be your best first step. Choose an at-home apnea tester that monitors your breathing from your nose and mouth, your blood oxygen levels and heart rate. It should use the Apnea/Hypopnea Index to measure your number of blocked breathing episodes per hour and determine the severity of your OSA. Also, make sure the readings from the monitor are transmitted to a reputable firm for evaluation. Don't settle for the first test kit you come across. When you get the results, share them with your doctor. If you have OSA, implementing the right medical solution is a second (and essential) step.
And think about this: People who are overweight, have a neck circumference of greater than 17 inches, don't eat right or get enough exercise, smoke, drink caffeine after noon or drink excess alcohol are most likely to develop sleep apnea. If any of these describe you, take heart. Losing just 5 percent of your body weight and changing your habits can relieve, and sometimes cure, OSA.
Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at email@example.com.