What you need to know about Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Home Sleep Tests (HSTs)
What is a Home Sleep Test (HST)?
HSTs allow patients to sleep in the comfort and convenience of their own home while a small device collects data on their sleep patterns. The equipment is small, easy-to-use and is cost effective for patients compared to an in-lab study. The patient will receive instructions on how to set up and wear the device at home, then will return the device the following day for data scoring and interpretations. Although many apps and sleep tracking devices are available, these other options may be unreliable and may not be FDA approved to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. The Braebon Medibyte level III home sleep test (HST) is FDA approved for diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
How Accurate are HSTs?
Studies have shown that HSTs are just as accurate as in-lab sleep studies.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
OSA is a sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted while sleeping due to a narrowed or blocked airway. This can be due to anatomical abnormalities causing blockage or excessive relaxation of the muscles that normally hold the airway open. When the airway collapses, one is aroused from deep sleep to open the airway again. These episodes of waking up are brief but may frequently happen throughout the night. While one may not realize that they have OSA right away, there can be severe long-term adverse effects on one’s health.
Symptoms of OSA include:
Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
Feeling unrested even after 8 hours of sleep
Bruxism (grinding teeth)
Frequent night-time urination
Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
Mood changes, such as depression or irritability
High blood pressure
What are some of the main causes of OSA?
The root cause of OSA is often different in each patient. However, there are several risk factors that often contribute to OSA. Smoking and alcohol use increase your risk of developing OSA. Your family health history and high blood pressure are also contributing factors.
Almost 70% of adults who have been diagnosed with OSA are also obese. Being overweight can lead to breathing problems while you sleep. Excess weight can create fat deposits on the throat. This extra fat blocks the airway when you lay down and when the muscles in your throat begin to relax as you fall asleep. People who are overweight also have a decreased lung capacity which makes it easier for the upper airway to collapse during the night.
Misaligned and Underdeveloped Jaws
Many people with OSA also have misaligned or underdeveloped jaws. If your jaws are not aligned properly they can reduce the size of the upper airway. Misaligned jaws also affect the position of your tongue, which can block the airway while you sleep.
Additional factors that increase the risk of this form of sleep apnea include:
Having nasal congestion or blockage
Thicker neck circumference. People with thicker necks might have narrower airways
Being male. Men are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than are women
Being an older adult
A narrowed airway such as from large tonsils, an over-sized tongue, or a small jaw
A family history of sleep apnea
Use of alcohol or sedatives which excessively relax the muscles of the throat
What are the risks of not treating OSA?
Not treating OSA is extremely risky. Because your body is having to wake itself up multiple times a night in order to breathe, you’re not getting the rest you need. Getting a good night’s sleep gives your body the chance to rest and restore energy. If you don’t get the sleep you need every night, you are at a greater risk of falling asleep while you’re driving or at work. Going for a long time without proper sleep will have a negative effect on your body and can lead to major health problems.
Increased risk of hypertension and stroke
Increased risk of heart attack and cardiac arrhythmias.
Poor memory, mood disorders, and decreased memory and cognitive function.
How do you diagnose OSA?
A doctor will often ask questions about sleep habits, symptoms, and family medical history when diagnosing OSA. Many times the doctor will recommend a sleep study. This test can either be done in a sleep lab or at home. Breathing effort, air flow, pulse, oxygen levels, and snoring intensity will be monitored and measured during the test. This information will be used to help understand the severity of sleep-disordered breathing.
Treatment Options for OSA
The CPAP Machine is the most common treatment for OSA. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. The purpose of the machine is to keep air flowing into your airways while you sleep. It does this through a mask that you wear over your nose or mouth that continually blows pressurized air into the airway, which increases slowly throughout the night and forces it to stay open.
Patients often find relief when they use the CPAP machine. However, many find it difficult to wear the mask for long periods of time, to tolerate the air pressure.
Oral sleep appliances are another common treatment for OSA. For patients who have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, sleep appliances are a great alternative to the CPAP machine. These devices are custom-fit mouthgaurds that are designed to keep your airway open. They are portable and easy to wear.
These dental sleep appliances are carefully custom-fit and designed to open the airway while avoiding complications such as loose teeth or TMJ problems.
Since obesity is one of the common risk factors associated with obstructive sleep apnea, losing weight can help reduce OSA. Weight loss reduces the fat deposits in the neck, which open up the airway. Your doctor can help you begin the journey toward a healthy weight with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.
Weight loss, oral appliances, and the CPAP machine work well for patients with mild to moderate OSA. However, for patients who have more severe OSA or who have jaw-related obstructive sleep apnea, surgery is usually the best option. While oral appliances and CPAP machines are able to help you manage your OSA, surgery is the only way to permanently find relief.
There are several types of surgery for OSA. The most successful is MMA surgery. In MMA surgery, the jaw is moved forward, which opens up the airway. 90% of patients who undergo MMA surgery are able to breathe easier almost immediately.
SleepLytics exists to improve the lives of those affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by using state-of-the art technology that helps doctors provide the most accurate diagnosis and best treatment options for their patients.