Sleep apnea is potentially deadly, but it is treatable. However, people can only get treated if they know they have the condition. Unfortunately, most people with sleep apnea, perhaps 80%, remain undiagnosed. Therefore, matching people with proper diagnostic tools is critical to ensure people avoid the potential dangers of sleep apnea. 

Home tests help with this. People who don’t want to go to a sleep lab for polysomnography find it more comfortable—and affordable—to test for sleep apnea in the comfort of their own home and bed. A new sleep apnea diagnostic tool promises to be less invasive and more accurate than the standard sleep test currently in use. Early research shows that this technology is highly accurate and that many people who were tested for sleep apnea with old technology might have gotten inaccurate results

man with beard sleeping peacefully in his blue lite bedroom

New Noninvasive Monitoring Technology

According to results published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, about half of people tested have some level of sleep apnea, and 22.6% of people have moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea. 

Researchers conducted testing with a new device, called the Withings Sleep Analyzer (WSA), which includes under-mattress sleep sensors that measure body movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, and snoring. It can also detect when people stop breathing. 

This technology has many potential benefits for users. First, it requires no nightly application. People don’t have to put on sensors or gauges. They simply go to bed. This also means sensors won’t come off in the middle of the night, improving data accuracy.

Second, the technology can remain in place to perform long-term testing. In this study, patients were tested over an average of 170 nights, allowing researchers to form a consistent picture of a person’s regular sleeping habits. 

Finally, the technology has high accuracy compared to the current standard testing method. The WSA has about 90% sensitivity and specificity for moderate to severe sleep apnea when compared against traditional polysomnography—the kind you’d get in a sleep lab. 

Testing a Large Population

Researchers recruited nearly 90,000 individuals from six continents (though most were in Europe and North America). They monitored these patients for an average of over 170 nights to determine how many had sleep apnea and how many might have been misclassified by a single-night sleep test.  However, they confined their analysis to the approximately 67,000 individuals who used the device regularly, had been using it for more than four weeks and were over the age of 18.

They found that only about 30,000 individuals (~45%) didn’t have sleep apnea and that 22.6% of all tested individuals had either moderate or severe sleep apnea. This they defined as an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 15 or greater. 

This study confirms that sleep apnea is widespread and that many people would benefit from getting a sleep test. However, it also showed that conventional sleep testing might not be adequate to help people find out if they have sleep apnea. 

Potential for Misclassification

Another aspect of this study showed that many people who had a single-night sleep test might be misclassified. After collecting their extensive data, researchers looked at how many people might have been misclassified due to a single-night sleep test. 

This data analysis showed that one-night sleep studies are good at identifying people without sleep apnea (85% of them would be classified appropriately) and those with severe sleep apnea (77% of them would be properly classified). However, it poorly ranks people with mild sleep apnea or moderate sleep apnea. A single-night study would appropriately classify only 54% and 52% of these individuals, respectively. This means that about half of people in this range might have been told their sleep apnea is either more severe or less severe than it is.

This might mean that they are being asked to get unnecessary treatment for some people. Others might need treatment but are told they have to get CPAP when they might benefit from oral appliance therapy. Testing for sleep apnea more accurately but less invasively makes this technology highly valuable. 

Future Uses of This Technology

This study showed how easy it might be to distribute WSA technology to the large population of people who suspect sleep apnea. This could make it easier for doctors and dentists to connect their patients with sleep tests in the comfort of their own homes. In addition, this technology seems ideal for post-treatment monitoring. The technology is an easy way for people to ensure that their oral appliance or CPAP properly treats their sleep apnea. 

Get a Sleep Test in Omaha

Do you suspect you have sleep apnea? If you have sleep apnea symptoms, it’s a good idea to get a sleep test. And if you have previously been tested for sleep apnea but feel the results are inaccurate, it might not be a bad idea to get tested again. Depending on your insurance, you might have to pay out of pocket to be retested. However, it might be worth it to get more accurate results that will help you get the treatment you need. 

To learn more about getting a sleep test in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 or email the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today for an appointment.