Reading Your CPAP Data
This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, The 7 Day Sleep Apnea Solution: Get the sleep you need and the life you want. Please feel free to make comments and suggestions. If I select and implement your suggestions, I’ll acknowledge you in my book.
Some of the most basic CPAP models and most of the older CPAP machines have data reporting, but only the number of hours used. These days, most machines have full therapeutic data reporting capabilities, including hours used, AHI, average pressures, and leaks. Some of the more advanced models will tell you if you have any snoring, flow limitations (partial obstruction that’s not severe enough to be called apneas or hypopneas) or even central apneas (no obstruction at all, but due to lack of brain signals to your diaphragm).
Although the accuracy of this data is pretty good, it’s not nearly as good as a formal sleep study, so you’ll have to take it with a grain of salt. One statistic that’s been quoted in the research literature is that CPAP machine data can be off in either direction by 20% compared to formal sleep studies. Ultimately, what’s more important is how you feel. Some people feel great, with residual apneas, whereas others won’t feel any better, despite having essentially no apneas or hypopneas. The data should be used as a guide in conduction with various other factors, such as how you feel, how well you function, and other health barometers such as your blood pressure, glucose levels, etc.
The data is typically stored on a small memory card, such as an SD card, which is a standard format for most PCs and Macs. Don’t worry if you have to remove your card. A copy of it is stored in the machine. Most of the newer models will give you a summary of your night’s sleep on the display screen, so you don’t have to check the card or computer every morning.
With these new powerful tools, you as the CPAP user have the ability to take control of your own care. With this ability also comes additional responsibility. So ideally, you can check your data every few months on a regular basis to see how you’re doing, and make the necessary adjustments. This will require a call to your doctor who will order the change to be made through your DME.
In the old days, you had to drop off or mail in your card to your sleep physician or DME to send the data to your sleep physician, who then interprets the data, and orders any pressure changes with the DME, who either comes to your house to make the changes, or has you come back into the sleep lab to make the change. This was a convoluted process.
For some odd reason, sleep doctors were reluctant to give patients direct access to their own data. The software that’s required to read the data was difficult to get, and you had to go through hoops to install on your computer once you gained access. The good news is that sleep doctors’ opinions are changing, and the entire industry in general is headed toward more open and easier access for patients to read their own data. There’s even a free open source program (Sleepyhead) that can read most popular CPAP models. Each of the major manufacturers also have better options, and are now beginning to integrate online web services where you can upload your card to a user friendly website.
CPAP machines can now also be configured to connect to your home WIFI network, and your physician or DME can look at your data real time, and even make setting adjustments remotely.
I can envision a time when you’ll be connected automatically to your computer and it will send you periodic progress reports, or alert you if there’s a problem or something to look into. Your physicians and DME can also be alerted when this happens and take appropriate action.
Next: CPAP comfort features