Testing for Sleep Apnea in the Comfort of Home

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By Alexis Blue, University Communications March 17, 2014

Sleep apnea affects more than 18 million Americans.

People who suspect they suffer from sleep apnea now have the option of participating in a University of Arizona Medical Center sleep study in the comfort of their own homes.

UAMC's Center for Sleep Disorders has been accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to perform in-home sleep testing. 

Until recently, patients had to do sleep tests in the hospital's four-bed lab, which conducts about 1,100 sleep studies a year.

The Center for Sleep Studies is expected to be able to conduct about 400 additional sleep apnea screenings a year with the new in-home option, said Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, director of the Center for Sleep Disorders and associate professor of medicine at the UA College of Medicine.

"Accreditation by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is a distinction that validates the high quality of care rendered by our center to promote sleep health and care for sleep disorders in our community," Parthasarathy said.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition in which people involuntarily and repeatedly stop breathing while they sleep. It affects more than 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation, and has been linked to a number of other health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression.

Those who may benefit from in-home testing include people who are homebound, who are not comfortable in the sleep lab environment or who cannot easily arrange their schedule to spend a night away from home.

If determined to be good candidate for in-home testing, a patient receives instructions from sleep center technicians and is sent home with electrodes and a small monitor – about the size of a camera – that measures the person's oxygen saturation levels, flow of air in and out of the nose, and chest and abdominal movement during a night's sleep.

Sleep technicians do not go to the patient's home. Rather, the patient self-administers the test and then returns the equipment to the center for analysis. Once the results come back, a patient may still be encouraged to participate in a test in the lab, Parthasarthy noted.

In-home testing for sleep apnea is not for everyone. For example, people with heart problems, emphysema or multiple sleep disorders are better served by testing in a lab, where a technician is monitoring the patient at all times, Parthasarathy explained.

Yet the option of testing at home is expected to allow the center to reach more people who think they may be suffering from sleep apnea.

Established in 2012, UAMC's Center for Sleep Disorders takes a multidisciplinary approach to the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders and related conditions, collaborating with sleep physicians, mental health professionals, pulmonologists, pediatricians and others to ensure individualized and comprehensive care. 

The center must be reaccredited every five years to be able to do out-of-center testing.

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