New home test for sleep status linked to diabetes, stroke and heart disease

New devices that can test whether an adult has obstructive sleep apnea are to be launched in the NHS after being recommended by the health spending watchdog. In a new draft guideline, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended five devices to diagnose and assess the severity of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

The condition is linked to serious health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart disease, and around 5% of the UK population are thought to have it but are undiagnosed. The new devices can be used at home while a person sleeps and do not require formal instructions from hospital staff on how to use them.

They don’t require cannulae inserted into the nose and are considered “less invasive, more comfortable to wear and easier to use,” Nice said. This could be important because test results using the current equipment – ​​which involves sleeping with a band around your chest and abdomen to measure movement, a small flow sensor in your nostrils and a blood oxygen monitor (oximetry) on your finger – can be affected by the wearer’s discomfort.

Nice also said that oximetry tests can overestimate blood oxygen levels in people with black or brown skin. The experts in Nice called for more research to determine the detection rates of the new tests based on skin colour.

Mark Chapman, director of the health technologies program at Nice, said: “Obstructive sleep apnea can cause serious health problems that could be managed if diagnosed and treated. Many people don’t even know they have this condition, which is why it’s important to be able to get a quick and effective diagnosis.

“It is promising that some of the new devices may have the potential to further improve sleep apnea detection for people with black or brown skin, but further evidence is needed to prove this. Another added benefit of these new devices includes that they are less invasive, more comfortable to wear and could reduce waiting times because they are easier to use, thus speeding up diagnosis and freeing up time for the doctor.”

The five recommended devices – AcuPebble SA100; Brizzy; CeasPAT 300; WatchPAT ONE and NightOwl – cost between £40 and £90 per device. The first three are also reusable.