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DIY Sleep Apnea Test

Old 11-20-2013, 02:02 PM
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Default DIY Sleep Apnea Test

The New FAA medical thread reminded me of this, FWIW.

A while back, I thought I might have sleep apnea. SA clinics are expensive and a PITA unless you really think you might have a problem. I wasn't sure.

But to set my mind at ease... I did a bit of research, and there is an alternate test you can do at home. It is not a substitute for a real test, but in my case, it set my mind at ease. From Wiki:

Oximetry, which may be performed overnight in a patient's home, is an easier alternative to formal sleep study (polysomnography). In one study, normal overnight oximetry was very sensitive and so if normal, sleep apnea was unlikely. In addition, home oximetry may be equally effective in guiding prescription for automatically self-adjusting continuous positive airway pressure.
When you have true SA, your blood oxygen drops aggressively, and the buildup of CO2 in your system eventually says "Hey dummy, you're suffocating!" So pulse oxymetry (a blood oxy meter) that records data can see if this happens at night.

At sea level, a normal blood oxygen level (saturation) is usually 96 - 97%. Although there are no generally accepted classifications for severity of oxygen desaturation, reductions to not less than 90% usually are considered mild. Dips into the 80 - 89% range can be considered moderate, and those below 80% are severe.

You must buy one that records data to be read out later on a computer. These are about $80. They clamp onto a finger like you'd see in the movies. I first tested it, and saw 97% to 100% O2. I held my breath until I was in pain, and it barely dropped to about 95%.

Sleep apnea numbers are when you dip below 90%, to as low as 80% You wear the thing all night (I had to tape mine w/medical tape) and then download the results.

It was pretty fascinating. I saw my pulse dip to low 40's at 0300, and my O2 levels slowly dropped to 95 or so, but there were none of the jagged drops to the 80's. It told me I did not have SA. A bit of googling will reveal a number of sites that describe what true SA looks like using pulse oxymetry.

Interestingly, when I fly with it, it easily detects cabin altitude changes. At 8,000 feet cabin, my O2 level dipped significantly, yet of course I felt fine.

I hope this helps some one. If you think you may have SA, try this first. It is becoming more accepted as a diagnostic tool, and best of all, only you know.
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Old 11-21-2013, 10:16 AM
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Good post, thanks for sharing! This seems like a very cost effective way to see if you're affected by SA.

Interesting observation about O2 levels while at altitude. IF there is a higher than normal incidence of SA in pilots, it would be an interesting study to see if a career of bouncing between sea level and 6000-8000' had any role in the disease.

Slightly off topic, I found this graphic that illustrates what a 40 BMI looks like. I hate the idea of a nanny state, but that kind of morbid obesity looks like a heart attack going somewhere to happen. I think we'd all prefer that it not happen at the controls.

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Old 11-21-2013, 11:24 AM
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Also, while the exact numbers are a bit contentious, having a BMI over 40 undoubtedly decreases your life expectancy.

For example, one study predicts that an adult male non-smoker with a normal BMI throughout life has a life expectancy of 81 years.

If that same person has a BMI over 40, their life expectancy is only 71 years.

If that same person smokes and has a BMI over 40, their life expectancy is only 60 years.

Makes you think twice about the age 65 rule when obese smokers don't get any extra scrutiny.
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