Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by repeated collapse of the upper airway during sleep. The condition causes poor sleep quality and low oxygen levels.

Doctors like Rojanapairat can prescribe an at-home sleep test to anyone who is at moderate or high risk for obstructive sleep apnea. This includes people who snore loudly, are overweight, have high blood pressure, and drink alcohol or take sleeping pills.

Previously, sleep apnea could only be diagnosed with a polysomnography, a test that is performed overnight in a sleep lab—a hospital space that is usually designed to be as comfortable as a hotel room. Multiple sensors are connected to a patient’s body to monitor brain and muscle activity, heart rate, breathing effort, and other metrics. Polysomnography is still used to diagnose different types of sleep disorders and is necessary to confirm mild sleep apnea or rule it out completely.

For most patients, however, at-home sleep studies are preferred: The tests Rojanapairat and her colleagues prescribe are simple and easy to use. They are disposable, less invasive than a polysomnography and can be performed in one’s own bed.

For the at-home test, one small sensor is taped to the patient’s finger and another is affixed to their chest to measure heartrate and oxygen saturation and identify how many breathing interruptions are experienced in a night. The sensors link with a smartphone app, which uploads all the data online, where doctors can access it immediately.

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