New at-home tests for sleep apnea

Watch the report from Action News' Ali Gorman, R.N.
May 2, 2014 3:44:42 PM PDT
There are new at-home sleep tests to find out if you have the dangerous condition of sleep apnea.

Hal Pfaff is finally making the trip his wife urged him to for years to see a sleep specialist.

Pfaff admits he snores.

"Because there's times I wake myself up snoring, so I know I do snore," he said.

His wife says he also stops breathing for a few seconds and he's often tired.

"He'll sit down to watch TV and conk out," said Cathy Pfaff.

These are signs of sleep apnea and it's a dangerous condition. If left untreated, it's linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and stroke.

Pfaff knew there was a problem, but he couldn't bear the thought of being wired up and sleeping in a sleep lab.

It's something Dr. Kesha Wilford of Crozer-Keystone Health System hears often.

"Most people are worried about not being able to sleep in an environment that's not their usual sleep environment - their own bedroom, and their own bed," said Dr. Wilford.

That's where the home test comes in. Pfaff changed his mind about getting tested when he saw information about the home test on Crozer-Keystone's website.

Here's how it works - a lab tech will strap a belt around your chest and it monitors your breathing.

A sensor will be secured on your finger and you'll wear a nasal cannula, again to watch your breathing.

Then you go home. When you go bed, there is a button you push and the device will record the data.

The night Pfaff tried it, he says it took longer to nod off, but he thinks he slept well.

"It was relaxing, I was in the comfort of my own home," he said.

A week later, Pfaff got good news.

"Your sleep test came out okay, you don't have sleep apnea," said Dr. Calvin Stafford, another sleep specialist at Crozer-Keystone.

For the snoring, Dr. Stafford suggests Pfaff wear a mouth appliance.

Another patient, Steven Cho also snored, and he also took the home test. It found that he does have sleep apnea.

Cho now wears a CPAP mask to bed and says it's made a difference.

"I definitely notice much better energy level, better focus, concentration. I feel I'm a lot sharper at work," said Cho.

His wife recommends the home test for other couples who struggle with snoring.

"Don't make your spouse sleep in another room," said Min Jung Kim.

If you are generally healthy, or have just one condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, then it's safe to do the at-home sleep test.

However, if you have more complicated problems then it has to be done at a hospital.

Most hospitals in our area now offer some form of at-home testing. And it is quickly gaining popularity. In fact, at least one doctor told Action News health insurance companies prefer it, and are reluctant to pay for in-lab studies.