2011.11.23

Sleep Study

Well, I finally did it. After years decades of not sleeping well, and snoring away the time I do spend sleeping, I did a sleep study. I’ve been wanting to do it for a few years, but you either need insurance or money to do one, and in the past, I’ve had neither…

Yeah, I’ve got sleep apnea. If you don’t know what that is, it basically means you stop breathing while you are sleeping. You don’t have to be a medical doctor to know that’s probably a bad thing. In fact, its believed that sleep apnea may have contributed to Reggie White’s death.

I’ve got friends with sleep apnea who got tested, and ended up with CPAP machines. One told me it changed his life, and urged me to get tested. (Hey Les, I finally did it!)

The test itself was a lot of fun for a nerd like me. They connected 27 sensors to my body to capture data. This included 15 on the head, one on each ankle, some on the chest, back, and stomach to monitor breathing, and a pulse sensor on the finger. (Interestingly enough, I’ll be getting my own pulse sensor very soon.)

They wire you up and let you sleep a few hours to monitor things, and then (if needed) put a CPAP mask on you, and it helps you breathe. It was a little weird, but I’m sure I’ll get used to the mask, especially if it means better sleep and better health. (The machines are also much quieter than they used to be.)

I was also told that surgery can be an option rather than a CPAP machine, but they do not recommend it, and it doesn’t always work. I’m cool with the technology instead.

I did do a little probing about the data that got collected from the study. I asked it if was just numerical data from the sensors, perhaps in a CSV file. The technician said that was “basically” correct. (It was hard to gauge how technical the technician was.) I asked about getting a copy of my data. They told me I’d need to ask the doctor, as it was for him. I personally think it should be available to me. I’m the patient, right? Isn’t the data about me? Shouldn’t they be required to share it with me?

Anyway, I was told that I slept good with the mask on. I didn’t feel like I did, but I think “medically” I probably slept good. I should find out in a few weeks when I get my own machine for home use. (The mask probably wasn’t optimal either, as they spend some of the time adjusting the pressure and monitoring the sensor data. Hopefully they’ve got it all dialed in at the end.)

Oh, I was also told that the home machine logs data and the doctor takes a look at that data as well. Anyone know how to get that data from the machine? :)

7 Responses to “Sleep Study”

  1. Greg TarnoffNo Gravatar says:

    Glad to hear it works for you. When I did it I was at the bare minimum for seeing if a CPAP was useful and I felt like crap after using it, so I didn’t go any further. Turns out I am a grinder and with a mouth guard I should solve all my issues.

    Technically all the data is yours and they have to give it to you, but the format I don’t think is specified. I think that the standard response would be paper records and getting the CSV/output file might be harder. Depending on the file type, there could be issues as well. If it is a proprietary file type, then you may need special software to open it and there could be something the doctor has agreed to that only using the proprietary software can the data be viewed electronically.

  2. Les OrchardNo Gravatar says:

    Depending on what CPAP machine you end up with, there’s a whole world of card readers and software to explore:
    http://www.cpap.com/cpap-software.php

    I haven’t done a dump from mine in awhile, but there’s a surprising wealth of data from sensors I didn’t even know my machine had. I had at one point a log of every breath over every night from 5 years’ nights of sleep, with every snort or leak from the mask recorded.

    There’s also a decent self-help community over here:
    http://www.cpaptalk.com/

    More average, every day people there and fewer DIY hacker types – but everyone who makes it onto the board is a bit of a tinkerer eventually, it seems like. Maybe more like DIY healthcare than DIY arduino style :)

  3. Mr. GabeNo Gravatar says:

    My cPap is the best. I sleep like a baby when I use it, and I sleep like crap when I don’t.
    There is a little card (not standard) that goes in the back of the machine I have.

    I put it in upside down so the doctor and insurance company can’t spy on me.

  4. I’d ask your doctor or get a second opinion about the surgery. My back story sounds exactly like yours – wife-maddening snoring, crappy sleep, etc. I got diagnosed with sleep apnea through a sleep study, and my ENT doctor recommended surgery. I was lucky that most of my problems were all mechanical.

    They broke and straightened my nose, widened my nasal passage (turbinate outfracture? I think is what it was called), trimmed back my soft palate, and removed my tonsils. The only issue they weren’t able to do anything with was my huge tongue. Basically, they straightened everything out and widened ‘er up so I could get maximum airflow per breath.

    I had never been able to breath out of my nose. If you were to have taped my mouth shut, I would have been a goner. Working out and sports were difficult. I can now breath through my nose perfectly and no longer have sleep apnea. The biggest adjustment was teaching myself to breath out of my nose again.

    Oh yeah, they also fixed some stupid veins I had in my nose that gave me bloody noses all my life. I had never been able to blow my nose due to massive nose bleeds that would ensue. Now I can honk away, no blood.

  5. Pete, glad to hear you had a sleep study and that you’ll be using a CPAP machine. It should make a huge difference. Mine sure has.

    Two things to be aware of: 1) They do get to be a bit of a hassle after a while with having to do regular cleaning and looking a bit strange to your kids when you are sleeping; 2) Mine has a valve that constantly blows air out and my wife gets irritated with that air blowing at her if I sleep on my right side. This means I always have to sleep on my left side. If you move around in bed while sleeping (i.e., flip from side to side) this can be an irritating restriction (and/or an annoyance to your spouse).

    Anyway, good luck and thanks for the write up. I too am interested in getting my CPAP data. Hmmm. How to hook an Arduino up to my CPAP?

  6. Scott SNo Gravatar says:

    Pete, my wife had a few surgeries for her sleep apnea and it did help her, although she said the experience was not fun. She previously had a CPAP before that, but since the surgeries she sleeps much better and doesn’t need the machine.

  7. Thanks for all the comments! The sleep center did say that the dental office that deals with the surgery is in the Waukesha area, but I think I’ll start with the CPAP and see what happens. It sounded like getting surgery through insurance would also be tougher. I’ll keep it in mind though in case things don’t work out.

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