How Can I Test Myself for Sleep Apnea?

Medically Reviewed on 4/20/2022
How can I test myself for sleep apnea?
Testing yourself for sleep apnea requires participating in a sleep study, such as these five diagnostic tests and evaluations.

A sleep study, which allows for a definite diagnosis of sleep apnea, is the only way to be certain of the diagnosis. Most hospitals and nursing homes can arrange for a sleep study for a patient, which includes a portable monitor that can be used in the patient's home. However, most at-home exams may necessitate in-lab testing, regardless of the test results.

  • Before diagnosing sleep apnea, doctors will try to identify if something else is causing your sleep problems.
  • Following a thorough evaluation and assessment, doctors will run one or more diagnostic tests to establish the exact cause of your sleep apnea to adopt the best potential treatment option.

Testing is vital because a diagnosis can lead to potential hazards unique to the type of sleep apnea you have, as well as the appropriate treatment for it.

5 diagnostic tests and evaluations for sleep apnea

  1. The home sleep apnea test
    • If you are suspected of having sleep apnea, you may be given a home sleep apnea test to diagnose your condition.
    • This entails sleeping at home while wearing specialized equipment that records your breathing patterns while you sleep.
    • The device records data that will be used to diagnose your sleep apnea. You will be shown how to set up the equipment on your own.
    • Sensors in the at-home device will monitor your breathing, oxygen levels, and heart rate while you sleep.
    • If in-home testing reveals that you have sleep apnea, doctors may develop a treatment strategy.
    • In circumstances, where another medical condition may be contributing to your symptoms, your doctor may advise you to undergo an in-lab sleep study.
  2. Sleep diary
    • In addition, you may be required to keep a sleep journal for up to two weeks.
    • The diary should include information, such as when you went to bed each night, how many times you awoke during the night, and what time you awoke in the morning.
    • This is necessary to identify sleep patterns, which will aid in the diagnosis of your sleep condition.
  3. In-lab sleep studies
    • An in-lab sleep study will provide a more comprehensive assessment of your condition, allowing you to determine the source of the sleep disturbance.
  4. Drug-induced sleep endoscopy (DISE)
    • DISE is a sophisticated diagnostic method that enables physicians to detect the exact location of obstruction within the airway.
    • Using this information, doctors can personalize surgical treatment to a patient's specific needs.
    • An anesthesiologist will provide a sedative to you during the surgery. A tiny flexible endoscope is put down one side of the nose and down the throat while you are sleeping to search for potential obstructions in the palate and tongue areas.
    • DISE is required for potential candidates for therapies, such as trans-oral robotic surgery and hypoglossal nerve stimulator.
  5. Polysomnogram (sleep study)
    • A polysomnogram is a sleep study that can be performed in a lab or at home to diagnose sleep apnea.
    • Individuals will be examined at the sleep center for in-lab sleep investigations, where physicians will place sensors on the face and scalp.
    • While you sleep, the polysomnogram monitors and records your brain waves, oxygen levels in your blood, heart rate, breathing, and eye and limb movements.

Diagnosis typically entails a mix of tracking symptoms, discussing them with a doctor, and completing various tests to track and monitor an individual's real sleep.

What should I consider for a home sleep apnea test?

A home sleep apnea test delivers information to doctors to help them diagnose sleep apnea. It enables you to sleep at home while wearing equipment that captures data on how you breathe while sleeping.

Typically, you will be responsible for setting up the testing equipment. There are numerous devices with various sensors and equipment. These gadgets monitor your breathing and oxygen levels in your blood. Some may measure your heart rate or collect other information about the body.

A doctor may recommend a home sleep apnea test if:

  • You most likely have moderate to severe sleep apnea.
  • Other than the probable sleep apnea, you have no severe medical concerns.

You should not have a home sleep apnea test if:

  • You are not at high risk of developing sleep apnea.
  • You have a medical condition, such as lung disease, neuromuscular disease, or congestive heart failure, and your doctor suspects you have another sleep issue.
  • You are unable to administer the test at home due to physical limitations.

In certain circumstances, your doctor may advise you to do a sleep study rather than a home sleep apnea test. A sleep study provides the most comprehensive assessment of your sleep.

4 benefits of a home sleep apnea test

The home sleep apnea test has several benefits and drawbacks. Before deciding whether this test is the best way for you to assess whether you have a sleep problem or not, weigh the advantages and downsides of the home test.

  1. Convenience
    • Home testing is handier than lab tests, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic when you want to avoid hospitals and clinics as much as possible.
    • Furthermore, the test is convenient because you may sleep more regularly than during lab testing because you are at home, following a sleep routine that may yield more accurate results.
  2. Less expensive
    • When compared to in-lab tests, at-home tests may be up to 20 percent less expensive.
    • Unlike in-lab tests, at-home tests need less equipment, do not require the assistance of a doctor or physician, and include some do-it-yourself testing possibilities.
    • The at-home test is even covered by insurance in some situations.
  3. Fast results
    • In comparison to in-lab testing, at-home testing yields substantially faster results.
    • The reason for this is the portable breathing monitor, which you may take home and start monitoring right away.
    • You can return the gadget in a few days, and your doctor can quickly review the results and make a diagnosis or recommend more testing.
  4. Accessibility
    • Not everyone lives near a hospital or a clinic. So, having an in-lab sleeping test may be tough.
    • At-home testing is more accessible and practicable for most people.
    • In other situations, the monitoring gadget can even be sent or returned by mail, allowing some patients to avoid going to the hospital or clinic entirely.

3 downsides of a home sleep apnea test

  1. Accuracy issues
    • It is well-known that home sleep apnea tests may not always detect all symptoms and provide accurate results.
    • They are not reliable in most situations because there is no doctor or sleep technician to supervise the testing process.
    • As a result, at-home testing may miss several potentially dangerous health issues related to blocked breathing and sleep.
  2. Often lead to in-lab testing
    • Most at-home exams necessitate in-lab testing. Regardless of the test results, this may be an option.
    • Even if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea straight immediately, you may still need to undergo in-lab testing so that the doctor can decide the best treatment and therapy options for you.
  3. Limited testing options
    • At-home sleep apnea tests only identify sleep apnea and do not detect other sleep disorders.
    • This can make it difficult for the doctor to gain a clear understanding of the issue and thus, arrive at a proper diagnosis.
    • Because of this, doctors frequently need to order in-lab tests for more accurate scenario analysis.

What are the 3 types of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a potentially fatal sleep disorder in which your breathing stops or becomes shallow numerous times during sleep. This implies that the body, particularly the brain, does not receive enough amount of oxygen during sleeping.

Sleep apnea is divided into three types:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA):
    • The more prevalent of the two types of sleep apnea is OSA.
    • It is caused by an obstruction of the airway produced by the collapse of soft tissue in the back of the throat.
  2. Central sleep apnea (CSA): More dangerous kind of sleep apnea in which there is no obstruction of the airway, but the brain fails to instruct the respiratory system to breathe due to respiratory center instability.
  3. Complex sleep apnea syndrome or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea: Occurs when a person has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

The signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea overlap, making it difficult to define the kind of sleep apnea.

9 signs and symptoms of sleep apnea

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

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, gasping for air, or choking that awakens you from sleep
  • Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you are working, watching television, or even driving

Many people do not consider snoring to be an indication of anything dangerous, and not everyone with sleep apnea snores. However, if you encounter loud snoring, especially snoring that is punctuated by periods of silence, consult your doctor.

Consult your doctor if you are experiencing chronic exhaustion, sleepiness, or irritability because of a sleep disorder. Excessive daytime drowsiness (hypersomnia) can be caused by sleep apnea or other conditions, such as narcolepsy.

12 risk factors of sleep apnea

  1. Excess weight
  2. Neck circumference, people with thicker necks may have narrower airways
  3. A narrowed airway
  4. Being male
  5. Being older
  6. Family history
  7. Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers
  8. Smoking
  9. Nasal congestion
  10. Heart disorders
  11. Using narcotic pain medications
  12. Stroke

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11 complications of sleep apnea

  1. Daytime fatigue
  2. Difficulty concentrating
  3. Quick-tempered, moody, or depressed
  4. High blood pressure
  5. Heart problems
  6. Stroke
  7. Type II diabetes
  8. Metabolic syndrome
  9. Complications with medications and surgery
  10. Liver problems
  11. Sleep-deprived partners

Sleep apnea occurs when your breathing is often or partially restricted while you sleep. It might be mild, moderate, or severe depending on how frequently you have decreased airflow to your lungs per hour.

Adults can experience apnea anywhere from 5 to 30 times each hour. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most frequent type of sleep apnea.

3 treatment options for sleep apnea

Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can begin researching treatment options.

  1. CPAP
    • The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is the most prescribed therapy.
    • It works by placing a tiny mask over your nose and mouth and continuously blowing air into your airway as you sleep.
    • Some people have difficulty accepting a CPAP for a variety of reasons, including discomfort, restriction, or feelings of claustrophobia.
  2. Surgery
    • Surgery is commonly used to treat sleep apnea in children because the tonsils are frequently the source of the problem.
    • However, treating sleep apnea with surgery in adults can be a multistep process, and it is uncommon for people to have to continue using a CPAP or oral appliance following surgery.
  3. Oral appliance therapy
    • If you are uncomfortable using a CPAP machine, an oral appliance device may be right for you.
    • A dental sleep expert can fit you with a custom-made oral device that repositions your jaw and tongue to help open your airway.
    • Many people prefer to sleep with an oral appliance because it is more comfortable and less obtrusive.
    • Combination therapy (oral appliance + CPAP) has been demonstrated to be useful for patients with severe sleep apnea.

You are not alone if you have sleep apnea. Knowing what symptoms to look for is an excellent first step toward recognizing the problem and finding treatment.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 4/20/2022
Image Source: iStock image

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Meadows A. Sleep Apnea Test At Home. Sleep Foundation.

Cleveland Clinic. Sleep Apnea.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

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