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Here to help: get checked for sleep apnea

[NEW YORK] Sleep apnea affects an estimated 22 million Americans. Yet most people who have it never get it diagnosed.

The most important thing you can do if you suspect you have sleep apnea is see an expert. Explain your symptoms to your primary care doctor or talk to a sleep medicine specialist. Your doctor will likely schedule you for a sleep test, which can be done at home or in a lab.

The traditional sleep study, called a polysomnogram, requires you to spend a night in a sleep lab. There you'll be hooked up to a variety of machines that track and record your brain waves, heart rate, breathing and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. If the study leads to a diagnosis of sleep apnea, you'll be asked to return to the lab for a second time so you can be fitted for a device that gently blows air into your airway at night to keep it open, called a CPAP machine, for continuous positive airway pressure.

The other method of diagnosing sleep apnea is through a home sleep test. The benefit of this is that instead of spending a night in an unfamiliar bed in a lab, you'll be sent home with equipment that you can wear in the comfort of your own bed. It will capture data on your blood oxygen levels, airflow, and bodily movement. A home sleep test isn't as accurate as a polysomnogram. But it's cheaper, simpler and a lot more convenient.