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Are Sleep Apnea Tests Covered by Alberta Health Care?

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A good night’s sleep is important for our health. Sleep apnea is one cause of frequent sleep disturbances. Quite often, you won’t remember waking up. So, unless you begin experiencing symptoms or someone tells you, you won’t know you have sleep apnea.

Without putting too much thought into it, you may think that sleep apnea isn’t serious. What’s the big deal of waking up a bit during the night? But if left untreated, this disorder can result in serious heart and liver problems. It can also increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

The first step to solving sleep apnea problems begins with testing to confirm whether or not sleep apnea is what you’re dealing with. Then you and your doctor can get to the root of the problem and treat it.

How Does a Sleep Apnea Test Work?

There are several ways to test for sleep apnea, but one of the primary ways is through a sleep study—also known as polysomnography. Generally, this takes place in a hospital or sleep clinic unless you opt for an at-home study.

A sleep study will assist in determining whether you have sleep apnea or not. But sometimes, you’ll still need further testing to figure out the best route to take for treatment. 

During the sleep study, the technician hooks you up to a few different machines that allow them to monitor your sleeping. They keep track of things like oxygen levels, muscle activity, and brain activity.

The equipment used during a sleep study may look intimidating. However, most people don’t have much difficulty falling asleep.

Suppose you’d prefer to get sleep apnea testing in the comfort of your own home and bed. In that case, there are testing options available that are similar to what you get in a sleep clinic or hospital. Typically they are a bit less involved, though. Ask your doctor if an at-home test is viable for your situation.

Other Sleep Tests

A couple of the other possible tests a doctor may order are:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test measures your heart rate and its rhythm.
  • Electrooculogram (EOG): This test helps determine various sleep stages by recording eye movements.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): This test measures and records brain activity during sleep.
  • Electromyogram (EMG): This test measures and records muscle activity while you sleep—especially during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages.

Some or all of these additional tests may be used during a sleep study. The doctor will recommend the testing based on the severity of your symptoms.

Will Alberta Health Care Cover a Sleep Apnea Test?

Like many other health conditions, testing and treatment can become quite expensive. So, if provincial health care alleviates some of the cost, it’s a bonus.

When it comes to sleep apnea testing, it’s possible to receive testing and a diagnosis for free by visiting a provincially run sleep center. Or some companies are partially funded and provide the same services for a reasonable fee.

The problem with the government services is that there are generally lengthy wait times determined by the severity of your symptoms.

As a solution to the wait, you can visit a private clinic. Unfortunately, you have to pay out of pocket for a majority of the offered services unless you have a private insurance plan that covers any of them.  

A man asleep in bed with a CPAP machine over his face to treat sleep apnea

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

There are several treatment options available for sleep apnea. Which one is right for you depends on the severity of the disorder.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

This is one of the most commonly recommended treatments for moderate to severe sleep apnea. Essentially, you wear a mask while you sleep that helps keep your airways open by providing a slight increase in air pressure.

Using a CPAP machine usually requires trial and error to find the right mask and pressure to treat your sleep apnea comfortably and effectively. Also, many people find it quite difficult to get used to sleeping with a mask on their face.

Oral Appliance

A great alternative to a CPAP machine is an oral appliance. Rather than sleeping with a mask, the oral appliance helps keep your airway open. For example, some may keep your jaw forward to release pressure on your airway and reduce snoring and sleep apnea.

Again there is some trial to find the best one for you. But once you do, the convenience of not having to haul a machine around with you if you travel is huge. Plus, many people find an oral appliance easier to get used to compared to a CPAP machine.

Other Treatments

There are a few other treatment options available as well:

  • Airway Pressure Devices: If a CPAP doesn’t work for you, your doctor may recommend a different airway pressure device similar to a CPAP. For example, you may be better off using an auto-CPAP that adjusts the air pressure as you sleep.
  • Supplementing Oxygen: This is a common treatment for central sleep apnea when your brain isn’t sending signals for your body to breathe often enough.
  • Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV): Technology has come a long way. With ASV, a machine learns what your normal breathing rate is. Once you’re asleep, it provides air pressure that maintains that breathing. It’s very effective but not recommended for all sleep apnea conditions or underlying conditions. Your doctor can determine if ASV is right for you.
  • Lifestyle Change: Some significant contributing factors to sleep apnea are things like weight or smoking. So, there are times when the only treatment needed is a lifestyle change. If your doctor thinks this is the case, they may direct you on certain changes.

Find out More About Sleep Apnea Testing and Treatment

If you need more information on getting back to feeling rested and getting the proper sleep your body needs, contact us today and book an appointment. Dr. Saleema Adatia can answer your questions and recommend testing and treatment options that are right for you.

Dr. Saleema Adatia

Written by Dr. Saleema Adatia

Dr Adatia did her dental training at Tufts University in Boston MA and graduated in 2006.  Returning to her hometown of Calgary, Dr. Adatia worked as an associate for many years before starting Symmetry Dental.  

Dr. Adatia has focused her clinical practice to the dental management of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. She has completed extensive training in dental sleep therapy, including a residency at her alma mater, Tufts University, and multiple courses focused on evidence-based education and the medical aspects of sleep related breathing disorders.

Dr. Adatia is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, which focuses on training dentists on how to provide oral appliance therapy for people who suffer from sleep apnea.  She has also been involved in clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of novel technologies for the treatment of OSA.

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