A home sleep study, also known as a home polysomnogram, is a test designed to diagnose a range of sleep disorders including sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common disorder that involves repeated breathing interruptions during sleep that may occur hundreds of times each night as a result of structural abnormalities or brain malfunctions. Patients who are overweight, have high blood pressure, are older, smoke or have a family history of sleep apnea may have an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
Unlike traditional sleep studies, which are performed in a sleep lab, home sleep studies are conducted in the comfort of the patient's home. The patient self-administers this exam, undergoing tests that record any bio-physiological changes that occur during sleep, including breathing patterns. The same equipment used in the setting of a sleep lab is used for the home sleep study. The study takes one night to complete and the results will then be analyzed to determine whether the patient has sleep apnea. Once the results have been reviewed, a proper sleep apnea treatment plan can be established.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the condition, occurs when an airway becomes either blocked or collapsed during sleep, resulting in breathing abnormalities. Home sleep studies will be recommended if it is suspected that a patient has obstructive sleep apnea. Patients with sleep apnea may experience the following symptoms:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Waking up with a dry mouth, or sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Awakening with shortness of breath
The Home Sleep Study Procedure
A home sleep study involves use of either a bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) device or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which deliver pressured air to the patient as he or she sleeps. A portable monitor is also set up to measure breathing activity during sleep. The test is used to accurately diagnose, or rule out, the presence of obstructive sleep apnea.
The air pressure devices aid in keeping the breathing passages open. A patient may be given either the BiPAP or CPAP, which will be connected to a mask that is placed over the mouth, nose or both. It will automatically adjust the amount of air pressure needed to breathe during sleep without triggering apnea. For accurate test results, the patient must sleep for at least two hours on the night of the sleep study. The next morning, the home polysomnogram is over and the results can be evaluated by a doctor.
Results of the Home Sleep Study
Once the results of a home sleep study have been interpreted, the doctor will be able to create a customized treatment plan based on the patient's individual needs. There are many different treatment options available for sleep apnea, depending on the specifics of the patient's condition.
Some options may include:
- Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, therapy. CPAP therapy is used during sleep, and connects a sleep machine to a mask that covers the nose. The air pressure it provides holds the airway open during sleep.
- Surgery. Surgery for sleep apnea can effectively remove the excess tissue from the nose or throat that may be causing this condition. There are several procedures used to achieve this goal, including somnoplasty, which removes tissue from the uvula and soft palate, and the Pillar procedure, which helps stiffen the soft palate and keeps it from vibrating and resulting in sleep disruptions. Surgery is usually recommended for patients with severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea.
- Oral Devices. Oral devices are typically best for patients who have mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnea. These devices will help keep a patient's throat open and help relieve snoring as well as sleep apnea. Oral devices may also help reduce daytime sleepiness.