When people show signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, doctors usually suggest having a sleep apnea test done immediately. This includes the use of some devices or equipments, such as a polysomnogram. A polysomnogram is a multiple component test that electronically transmits the records of specific physical activities while people sleep. These records are analyzed by sleep specialists, who determine whether or not the concerned person is having a sleep disorder, or sleep apnea in particular. If sleep apnea is diagnosed, the doctor will refer the person to the lab for further evaluations, which will help determine the treatment to be used.
A Common Question
When people are asked to have a sleep apnea test, their main question and concern is on what the process involves. People wonder what would be the chances of the devices detecting the problem and giving a correct diagnosis.
This is a very common concern people often have, but it has a simple answer. The sufferers are connected to devices while they sleep. Their sleep may be more erratic than usual and they will certainly sleep long enough to obtain valid results.
Sleep Apna Test Equipment
The doctors recommend polysomnographs in the case of obstructive sleep apnea. Polysomnographs are sleep studies obtained from polysomnograms. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition in which the patients tongue and soft palate fall backward during sleep, blocking the airway. This makes breathing difficult and shallow, which is very dangerous because it can stop the breathing altogether. This often occurs many times throughout a persons sleep and affects the quality of sleep. The person may wake up many times, enough to take a few breaths and fall back asleep.
Upper airway resistance syndrome is another severe form of this problem, in which people suffer of excessive daytime sleepiness as a result of poor quality sleep. However, unlike OSA, the chances that breathing stops completely are very rare.
The Goal of Sleep Study
Polysomnogram monitors the heart rate and rhythm, brain waves, eye movements, muscle activity, respiratory activity and blood oxygen content. The goal of carrying out a sleep study is to learn the following things:
- Whether a patient is suffering of breathing problems while sleeping
- Whether the oxygen content in the blood has dropped to a dangerous level
- Whether the patient develops dangerous heart rhythms due to breathing problems during sleep
The Analysis of Brain Waves
The brain is a little more than just a lump of neuron, cells and blood vessels that serve the function of supporting the neurons. It is the center of the nervous system. The neurons communicate with one another and send messages throughout the body by electrochemical impulses. This conducts a tiny charge down the length of a neuron, emitting electromagnetic waves. An EEG (electroencephalogram) is used to measure these electromagnetic waves in a sleep apnea test.
Sleep is not as easy as folks think. It is best described as consisting of alternating rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) phases. By measuring the time spent in these phases during sleep makes it possible for specialists to determine the sleep efficiency of patients.
A List of Sleep Apnea Test Equipments
- EEG (electroencephalogram) – measures and records brain wave activities
- EMG (electromyogram) – records muscle activities, such as leg movements, twitching, etc. and determines the presence of REM stages by picking up the heightened activities during the stage
- EOG (electro-oculogram) – records eye movements, which are important in determining stages of sleep (REM stage in particular)
- Nasal Airflow Sensor – records the airflow
- Snore Microphone – records the snoring activities
People get concerned on whether a polysomnogram will be able to give the correct results and whether they will be able to sleep during the test. One common complain patients come up with after the tests is that they feel the test was a total waste, because they weren’t able to sleep at all. That is only a subjective opinion patients have, because the study gives different results. When people dream (and remember their dreams), they are conscious only of their waking moments. So, if the sleep is highly fragmented with scattered waking moments throughout the night, it leaves people with the impression that they never slept. The fact is that they did sleep, but only poorly.
The truth of the matter is that EEG patterns cannot be faked. People may realize that they are not sleeping, but the fact is they actually are. The polysomnogram only picks up and records the physical activities during sleep and measures the breathing patterns, blood oxygen content and heart rate irregularities. So worry can be put to rest, because the sleep study only demonstrates whether people sleep at all during the sleep apnea test.