Sleep Testing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sleep is an essential part of our lives that we often take for granted. While most of the population can have regular, restful nights of sleep, an estimated 29 million American adults struggle with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). 

Sleep Apnea is when your breathing is regularly interrupted during sleep, which can happen up to hundreds of times every night! As you can imagine, lack of restful sleep is immensely harmful to our mental and physical health. 

The most common way to diagnose Sleep Apnea is by using a series of “sleep studies” and other tools primarily conducted through a Home Sleep Apnea Test (HSAT) rather than in person. The at-home option is preferable because the patient is more relaxed at home in their own home and sleeps as they usually do every night. 

Despite the at-home test not being the best option for everyone, the HSAT has significantly increased popularity due to COVID-19. This increased need has pushed the system to establish new practices to make the HSAT readily accessible to all patients. 

Some impacts that COVID-19 has had on Sleep Apnea testing:

Impact #1. Adoption of Fully Disposable Testing 

Testing has become more expensive, and the new adoption of disposable parts has become a serious concern due to the plastic involved. 

Impact #2. The emergence of CV-19 A.K.A. “COVID-somnia” 

Doctors specializing in sleep disorders, such as Neurologists and Cardiologists, have discovered a new sleep disorder called CV-19, a form of insomnia caused by COVID-19. Due to health precautions, many in-lab testing centers have either wholly taken away or reduced the available nights for in-lab testing, thus increasing the demand for HSAT’s and taking away tests from OSA patients. 

Impact #3. Cancellation of Non-Essential Testing 

Due to COVID-19 health precautions, sleep centers have been shipping testing equipment rather than picking up the test locally. The no-contact delivery decreases exposure to COVID-19, but now they are dealing with delayed shipping times, leaving patients waiting longer than necessary. 

Impact #4. Issues With Testing Equipment 

Home sleep tests require a lot of equipment, and if a sensor comes loose during the night, it will not give enough data to complete the study accurately. A missing piece of equipment may require an entirely new test, increasing the cost, time it takes to send the kit to further patients, and diagnosis delay. 

With the continuation of COVID-19 into 2021, the demand for HSAT’s will only increase, meaning that sleep centers will have to innovate their testing services quickly. 



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