I hope you enjoyed our previous installment of patient-submitted questions – The Latest From Dr. Stevens: Protecting Skin in Warmer Weather + Snake Bites.
The next question in my inbox is from a client who isn’t sleeping soundly at night.
Q: “I’d like to know more about sleep studies; can I test myself? What’s the process?
A: A sleep study is used to diagnose sleep apnea and/or periodic leg movements of sleep (PLMS). An in-lab sleep study is quite complex and involves brain tracings (EEG), heart tracing (EKG), oxygen monitoring, leg movement monitoring and respiratory monitoring. Therefore, it is hard to do a “sleep study” on your own at home.
However, with the newer electronic gadgets that are available you can do a few things, but probably are not worth the effort and certainly would not be enough to justify to an insurance carrier that you have sleep apnea.
The first step in the evaluation of sleep apnea or PLMS, is to see a healthcare provider to take a history, collect vitals (including height, weight, BMI, neck circumference and evaluation of your pharynx) and complete a questionnaire called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.
If the history and exam are consistent with apnea and the Epworth score is suggestive, then a sleep study would be ordered.
Nowadays, insurance companies want us to order home sleep studies which are simpler than going to a sleep lab but are not quite as detailed. If the home sleep study is diagnostic, then the first step would be to use an automatically adjusting CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. This is usually set to provide a range of pressures from 4-20cm of H2O; the machine automatically senses what is needed to overcome airway resistance. It usually works well!