Overnight Pulse Oximetry Test For Oxygen Level Evaluation

When an individual experiences erratic blood oxygen levels, it becomes important to conduct long-term oxygen level tests. A single blood oxygen test at the doctor’s office may not be enough. An overnight pulse oximetry test examines blood oxygen levels while the individual sleeps to determine if blood oxygen saturation remains healthy over an extended period of time.  

What is an Overnight Pulse Oximetry Test?What is an Overnight Pulse Oximetry Test?

What Does a Pulse Oximeter Do?

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the levels of oxygen in the blood. If oxygen saturation in the blood is low, it may indicate a respiratory or heart condition or a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. Learn more about pulse oximeters.  

Why Do I Need and Overnight Pulse Oximetry Test?

For those managing a respiratory illness or a heart condition, carefully monitoring blood oxygen saturation levels becomes important. Reduced levels of oxygen in the blood can indicate the worsening of a medical condition. It can be the first alert to doctors to seek advanced treatment if blood oxygen levels are not healthy.  
Most pulse oximetry testing is done while an individual is being treated or examined by a doctor or nurse. But long-term monitoring may be necessary if blood oxygen levels dramatically rise or fall. The overnight pulse oximetry test evaluates these changing patterns in blood oxygen levels so that doctors can determine if additional medical treatment is required.  

What Happens During an Oximetry Test?

Unlike pulse oximetry conducted in a doctor’s office, the overnight oximetry test captures blood oxygen data continuously throughout the night. This long-term monitoring allows doctors to see the patterns in blood oxygen levels. If you have frequent drops or desaturations, it can indicate medical conditions such as sleep apnea. 

Oxygen desaturations are related to increased heart rate, which indicates that the heart is working harder to pump oxygen into the bloodstream when oxygen is not being absorbed effectively by the lungs. The “apneas” in sleep apnea are often to blame for these gaps in breathing and in blood oxygen desaturation.  

Types Of Pulse Oximeters Used For Overnight Oximetry Tests 

Pulse OximetersPulse Oximeters

Home Use Oximeters

Home use oximeters allow individuals to test their blood oxygen levels at home. This is helpful for patients managing an illness where blood oxygen levels are affected, and careful self-monitoring is needed. Home use oximeters are simply attached to a finger and a digital reading will result.  

Over-the-counter Oximeters

Over-the-counter oximeters are available at most pharmacies or retail stores that offer basic medical supplies and equipment. No prescription is required. The over-the-counter oximeters work essentially like home oximeters, allowing patients to monitor their own blood oxygen saturation levels as needed.

Prescription Oximeters

Prescription oximeters are similar to the ones used by doctors and nurses in medical settings. They require more regulation in terms of the accuracy of their data. A doctor may prescribe an oximeter if more accurate results are required to monitor a medical condition.  

Interpreting Results Of Overnight Oximetry Tests 

Oxygen saturation should be 95% to 100% for healthy individuals. Those managing a respiratory or heart condition may have lower numbers and should take that into consideration when monitoring their own blood oxygen levels.  

Reasons For Inaccurate Oximetry Test Readings 

Because home and over-the-counter pulse oximeters are not as accurate as hospital-grade prescription monitoring, patients self-testing should evaluate the results carefully. The thickness of your skin, your natural blood circulation and even the use of nail polish can throw off the results. Patients should take the test a few times to see a range of results rather than trust one reading.  

The Pros And Cons Of An Overnight Oximetry Test 

Overnight oximetry testing can help diagnosis some medical conditions like sleep apnea. But the results may not be completely accurate. The test can be affected by sleeping position and give false results. That is why the test is one of many tests in a sleep study used by doctors to evaluate sleep disorders.

Where Can I Buy Pulse Oximeters? 

You can find pulse oximeters at most medical supply stores. Some stores offer online shopping for your convenience. You can shop for pulse oximeters at The Oxygen Concentrator Supplies Shop. The helpful staff can answer all of your questions and help you choose a pulse oximeter that is right for you.  

Chris Vasta

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.