Diagnosing sleep apnea isn’t as easy as it should be, and a team of researchers have set out to change that, according to a new study in the journal Science Advances. The study, spearheaded by researchers at Georgia Tech, has found a promising new means for diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA) is a problem affecting roughly 1 in 15 Americans. It occurs when the airway becomes obstructed during sleep, causing the affected person to stop and restart breathing. Often they will choke or gasp for air, and wake repeatedly (often without memory of waking) throughout the night. This leads to low blood oxygen levels, and can even worsen pre existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Currently, diagnosing sleep apnea can be a challenge, because many people don’t like the current methods of testing. One popular method is a sleep-clinic-based sleep study, where a patient spends the night and is attached to probes and monitored as they sleep. In addition to trying to get comfortable in a strange bed, it can also be difficult to even get an appointment, because sleep studies are so in-demand.
But there could be good news on the horizon. Researchers have developed a mask that adheres to the face and can be worn at home for at-home testing. The patient would simply adhere the silicone mask to their face before bed, and the mask would transmit data (including muscle movement, breathing, and sleeping or waking) from the mask to their smart device. The data would then be collected via app and shared with the doctor or sleep clinic conducting the sleep test.
As for accuracy, the mask is about 88 percent accurate, and the mask can even predict who might develop OSA in the future, even if they don’t currently have it. While there are means of at-home testing now, they are less accurate, and less comfortable too.
With sleep apnea cases on the rise in America, researchers hope to diagnose them earlier, or even prevent OSA from even occurring. This mask would aim to do that, potentially saving lives.
Though this mask is not yet available, it shows promise, and will hopefully be available for widespread use soon. If you suspect you have sleep apnea and would like a sleep study conducted, speak to Dr. Abelar or your general practitioner for next steps.
To schedule a consultation, please contact Dr. Abelar’s office today.