A home-based sleep apnea test

Created date

January 4th, 2018
A checklist of medical conditions with "sleep apnea" checked off.

Getting tested for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) used to mean a sleep study (polysomnography), which could only be conducted in a specialized laboratory. But now, technology has caught up, and there is a home-based system available. This system, called a home sleep apnea test (HSAT), is not appropriate for everyone. 

To help ensure this new technology is used appropriately, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has issued a position statement regarding HSAT, describing its appropriate clinical use in the diagnosis or treatment of OSA.

OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much and interfere with normal breathing. The oxygen in your blood goes down, and your brain senses this and wakes you up—but not to the extent that you are aware of it. Nevertheless, these frequent awakenings result in daytime sleepiness, irritability, and sometimes headaches. These daytime problems can also affect sleeping partners, because people with OSA often snore very loudly and sometimes make choking noises throughout the night.

A serious disease

Loud snoring may not seem very harmful, but OSA is a serious disease associated with numerous complications, including heart disease, high blood pressure, eye problems, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and depression. Several factors put people at increased risk of OSA, such as excess body weight, high blood pressure, chronic nasal congestion, smoking, asthma, and a family history of the disease. The AASM stresses that OSA or any related sleep disorder characterized by snoring can only be diagnosed by a physician. 

The AASM position statement also stresses that before considering HSAT, a physician must evaluate the proper need for it based on a full medical history and physical examination of the patient. Only a physician may order HSAT to diagnose OSA or determine whether treatment for the condition is effective. 

The data provided by HSAT should be evaluated and interpreted, or overseen by, a doctor who is board-certified in sleep medicine. Clinical decisions, however, should not be based exclusively on the data provided by an HSAT, as doing so could compromise a patient’s health and safety.

Finally, HSAT should not be used as a screening tool for people without OSA symptoms, nor is it appropriate for use in children.