Dallas County Hospital patients can now check out a home sleep test kit.


Ancillary Services Manager Audrey Erickson said the hospital has offered in-hospital sleep tests for around 18 years. The hospital started offering in-home sleep test kits in April.


The initial home sleep test kit was purchased in March. An additional kit was recently purchased through a grant from the Raccoon Valley Bank.


New guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine were published in November saying that the new in-home sleep testing equipment was diagnostic for sleep apnea. The National Sleep Foundation said around 18 million Americans have sleep apnea.


“And as we get older, the chances of us having it increase as it has to do with general muscle tone overall,” Erickson said. “The airway is more likely to collapse. The tongue falls back, blocks the airway and you stop breathing.”


She added that symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, excess daytime fatigue, gasping or choking at night, morning headaches or their bed partner says they stop breathing. If a patient comes into their family doctor with those symptoms, a home sleep test kit can be ordered.


Erickson said the kits are meant for people between the ages of 18 and 65, who are in good health. For those with heart or lung diseases, she recommends they come in for an in-hospital sleep test.


The in-hospital sleep test collects more data and a sleep technician is present. The in-home sleep test collects three points of data. That data is collected using a Pulse Ox sensor on the finger, a nasal cannula and a monitor secured to the chest with a belt.


The SleepView equipment, Erickson said, is FDA approved and recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.


Once the kit is ordered by a health care provider, an appointment is made to show the patient how to use the equipment. The kit is checked out overnight and brought back to the hospital. The data is then scored by a sleep technician before being reviewed by a board certified sleep physician.


“Once the doctor has looked at the data, typically if he sees that somebody has stopped breathing five times an hour or more, that is diagnostic for sleep apnea,” Erickson said. “The next step would be to have them come into the hospital and determine the level of CPAP, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, they need to correct that.”


One drawback to the home sleep test kit, Erickson said, is that it might not be sensitive enough for mild sleep apnea. An in-hospital sleep test collects more data and may be a better option.


Erickson encourages patients to talk through those options with their regular health care provider.


A lunch and learn is also being planned for Aug. 31. The program will help answer questions about the in-hospital sleep test versus the in-home sleep test.


Regardless of which option is used, Erickson said it is important for those who suspect they have sleep apnea to be tested.


“If left untreated, sleep apnea can have some pretty severe complications, including hypertension, heart failure, type 2 diabetes and stroke,” she said. “So it’s pretty important, especially if people are having symptoms, that they get in and talk to their doctor about it.”