Harvard Heart Letter

Diagnosing sleep apnea at home

Portable monitors help identify a common thief of sleep and cardiovascular health.

Sleep apnea, a nighttime breathing pattern of held breaths and explosive snores, is bad for the body and the heart. Diagnosing this ailment, which is all too common in people with heart disease, usually requires you to spend a night in a hospital's sleep center hooked up to various recorders. Portable devices that can detect sleep apnea in the comfort of your own bed now offer a convenient alternative.

Apnea (APP-nee-uh) is derived from the Greek terms for "without breathing." People with sleep apnea briefly stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times a night. After each pause, a plummeting oxygen level in the bloodstream prompts the brain to send out a "breathe now!" signal that briefly wakes the sleeper, who then gasps for air.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »