One in three Singaporeans have moderate to serious obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) but 90 per cent go undiagnosed. Now, a nifty device lets you test for the condition at home at less cost.
Everyone knows the downsides of lousy sleep – poor focus in the day, low energy levels, a shorter fuse and the tendency to binge eat. But what’s worse than the occasional sleep deprivation is OSA, a condition that causes you to stop breathing during your sleep. Most people with sleep apnea are loud snorers and may abruptly wake up multiple times a night from gasping or choking.
Outside of being a social nuisance, regular snoring doesn’t seem like a big deal. But doctors beg to differ. Sleep apnea is commonly linked to heart disease – when you stop breathing, the drop in oxygen levels can lead to high blood pressure.
Asians are especially at risk because of our smaller jaws. This means the tongue can only fall towards the throat at night and blocks the airways.
How to know if you have OSA
Traditionally, you’d have to be concerned enough to go to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and get hooked up for a sleep test to be diagnosed. But the downsides – high cost and the potential need to do an overnight sleep test in a foreign bed – can be a turn-off.
Enter WatchPAT, a nifty device that you can wear overnight at home to track your sleep stats. You strap it on like a watch, but it comes with additional probes that go on your index finger and chest. The portable set-up is used by multiple sleep labs but it is now available directly to the public via the Easmed Sleep Experience Centre.
What it tracks
The WatchPAT gives you the lowdown on apnea/hypopnea index (AHI), number of episodes of obstructed breathing due to sleep apnea; respiratory disturbance index (RDI), disruptions to sleep breathing not due to apnea; oxygen desaturation index (ODI), how often your blood oxygen levels drops by four per cent; and how long you spend in each sleep stage.
The device also tracks your pulse and your sleep positions.
After picking up your WatchPAT from the sleep experience centre and getting a consultation, you will wear it overnight. Staff from the centre will then pick the device up from you the next day and follow up with a doctor-verified report. If the test reveals that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you can then be referred to a specialist for more advice. For serious conditions, a more detailed test may be prescribed.
(Also read: Sleep Habits of Singaporeans That May Surprise You)
What happened when Shape tried it
No one has ever complained about my snoring, so I naturally assumed my results were going to come back perfect. It mostly was, but my RDI was found to be higher than normal – this means I may have to look into factors such as allergies or inflammation that may be affecting my breathing in bed.
What was interesting about the report as well was that it revealed that I slept better when I was lying on my left side or the back. As my report didn’t unveil anything serious, I was advised to repeat the test only every five to 10 years, or if I encounter any sleep issues in future.
The gadget is a little chunky for petite women – think of it as an XXL fitness tracker – but once you get used to the size, it shouldn’t come in the way of your rest.
How to get a WatchPAT test
The Easmed Sleep Experience Centre offers a Sleep Health Discovery Assessment that packs in a body composition analysis, including a visceral fats measurement, along with the WatchPat diagnostic test.
For more information, visit www.theairstation.com or call 6265-5520.
(Also read: 5 Things to Know About Sleep Apnea)