New take-home sleep apnea test available at UI Health Care–Iowa River Landing

UI Health Care is offering a new sleep apnea test so patients can be diagnosed at home in their own beds.

This type of evaluation is now available at the sleep clinic at UI Health Care–Iowa River Landing. Eric Dyken, MD, sleep lab director, says that in relatively healthy individuals this test can be an excellent alternative to traditional sleep testing that takes place in a laboratory setting.

“The home sleep apnea test is more comfortable than standard testing,” Dyken says. It allows patients to sleep in their home in their own bed, where they are more comfortable. And the clinic results from the test have been fantastic.” 

The home sleep test, called WatchPAT, includes a device similar to a very large wristwatch, a finger monitor, and a chest monitor. A patient takes WatchPAT home, where the technology records sleep time, oxygen levels, heart rate, body position and movement, and snoring decibels, among other things. The patient returns the device the next day, and the information is downloaded for review by a physician.

WatchPAT helps to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a common sleep problem that affects an estimated 60 million Americans—of which 40 million are undiagnosed. A person with OSA has a partially blocked upper airway during sleep. Breathing is labored while sleeping, with loud gasps, body jerks, and snorts, but the person probably doesn’t even know it is happening.

Left untreated, sleep problems like OSA can increase high blood pressure, which contributes to risk for stroke, heart attacks, and heart failure. Lack of sleep also has been connected to work-related and motor vehicle accidents.

“Sleep disorders are a common and growing problem in our country,” says Dyken. “This home sleep test will allow us to diagnose and provide treatment to more Iowans who are struggling to get a good night’s rest.”

The home sleep test is not for everyone. Patients must be referred to the sleep clinic by a physician and must be 18 years old or older, suffer from daytime sleepiness, and have two of the following: snoring, hypertension, or a witnessed sleep apnea (gasping for breath or stoppage of breathing while sleeping). The patient cannot have a history of major health problems, significant cardio-pulmonary disease, stroke, or neuromuscular disease. These individuals are better studied in the formal sleep laboratory, Dyken says.