The Sleep Study Conspiracy ▲

Tuesday, November 12




This post was contributed by my fabulous mother, Pat Rice! 

This is Anna’s mom and I snore. Loudly. As in roof rattling, clear the room, wake the dead loudly.  Or so I’ve been told.  I happened to mention this to my family practice doctor during my recent physical and the next thing I knew, I was scheduled for a sleep study.  Based on this experience, I am now convinced sleep studies are mostly a scam designed to put everyone on earth on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) ventilation machine, and thusly, line the pockets of the doctors who obviously receive kick-backs for prescribing them.  I shared this with Anna who asked me to write a “Guest Blog” about what happened.  Here goes.

I proceeded to the initial consult with an open mind.  Well, fairly open anyway.  I was pretty sure a CPAP would not be in my future regardless of the outcome of the study.  I can’t sleep with any noise or lights and I’m claustrophobic when it comes to having my movement (or escape route) restricted; so I am convinced I would never sleep another night if I had to wear an elephant mask.  People say you get used to them.  I honestly don’t see how.

I was given a questionnaire to answer about my health background and my sleep habits which I answered honestly.  One set of questions was to rate from 0 to 3, with 0 being never and 3 being probable, how likely I was to fall asleep in certain situations.
  • Watching TV = 1 (I admit I may fall asleep watching TV IF it is in the evening after getting up at 5:30 a.m. and working all day. I think most people would.)
  • Reading a book = 1 (Same reason and circumstance as watching TV.)
  • Laying down on the couch = 2 (If I lay down on the couch, I’m doing so with the express intent of taking a nap, so…)
  • In class or a meeting = 0 (Not saying I’ve never wished I was somewhere else, but I’ve never fallen asleep in class or during a meeting – though I may have put people to sleep.)
  • Stopped at a traffic light = 0 (Never!!!)
I was then interviewed by a Nurse Practitioner who went over my answers and who looked in my throat and declared I had a very narrow airway and it was probable I had sleep apnea as a result.  I explained my trepidation about coming in to do an overnight study and she responded I could do the “at home” test.  I was happy there was an alternative.  Turns out I was WRONG!

An appointment was made for me to return to pick up the home monitor and to be taught how to use it.  I dutifully returned on the appointed day and met with a Dr. Z (Ph.D) who then proceeded to explain how the home monitor would only check for four types of hypopnea and oximetric measurements, but that the sleep center tests would check for 20.  I was okay with this.  However, he went on to say if the home test showed I had any hypopnea and/or oximetric episodes, I would need to come in for the more involved (read “more expensive”) sleep center study.  I asked what would happen if it came back with none of these.  He replied that I would still have to come in for the sleep center study, because the home test only tested for four types.

Okay, so why am I paying $145 for this home test?  If I have to come in to the sleep center regardless of the results, isn’t this home test pretty pointless and a waste of time and money?

Obviously disappointed with this new bit of information (and starting to feel more skeptical), I asked that question and never got a satisfactory answer.  So I asked what percentage of patients who do the sleep study are not diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Response – less than 1%.  Why is the number so low? He said it is because patients wouldn’t have been referred for the study if they did not already have all the symptoms of sleep apnea.  What are all the symptoms? All I told my doctor is that I snore – that’s just one symptom.  This is where it gets interesting.

He pulls out my chart and says, "well you answered yes to this health question."

I looked and said, “no, I didn’t.”

Clearly my “no” had been scratched out and changed to a “yes.”   He goes on and says, "well you scored a 10 on the risk questions related to your likelihood of falling asleep in certain situations."

I looked at my chart and saw all of my “0s” had been changed to “3s.”  Who changed these answers and why?  Now I’m more than skeptical, I’m starting to believe there could be some fraud going on.  Dr. Z says, "well I think you need to discuss that with Dr. K when the results of the home test are provided."

Okay, I will.

Now to make this story a little shorter, I’m going to summarize the next evolution.  I took home the sleep monitor, set it all up according to instructions (checked it twice), went to sleep, returned the monitor to the office the next day.  Dr. Z downloads the data and says, “Wow – the oximeter wasn’t working and there is no data, but you had zero hypopneas and breathed regularly throughout the night.  The oximeter must be faulty.   I will talk to Dr. K about this and the issue with your records and get back to you on the next steps.”

One week later, still no word.  I finally call the office to follow-up and the next day I get a call from the elusive Dr. K asking to see me right away.

My meeting with Dr. K went well, but did nothing to assuage my skepticisim.  Summary of what I was told:
  • Record change was an inadvertent charting error on the part of the Nurse and an accurate copy was sent to the insurance company.  (I accepted this, though I didn’t really believe it.)
  • He is sorry the home monitor did not work and will refund my $145 for the test. (Okay, thanks – I like getting money back.)
  • No need to do another home study, but I should do a sleep center study.  (Why if I showed no hypopnea on the home test?)
  • Studies show most people have sleep apnea and doctors are encouraged to diagnose it to the maximum extent possible much like advocating for getting flu shots because apnea leads to stroke, heart attack, diabetes, weight gain, and I think hang-nails.  (Yes, he really said that! – well I added in the hang-nail part.) Also, don’t get me wrong – I truly understand the seriousness of these conditions and don’t dispute that sleep apnea, along with a lot of other risk factors such as diet, obesity, smoking, etc., increases the chances of experiencing or developing these health issues.
  • If the first sleep study shows no sleep apnea, it will need to be repeated so that we can take measures to ensure you sleep on your back the whole night.  “Why is that important?”  “Because people are most likely to have sleep apnea when sleeping on their backs.”  Well of course they do! It’s gravity.  When your tongue relaxes when you fall asleep, in what position are you most likely to have it fall back and obstruct your breathing? On your back. “Well, what if I never sleep on my back?” “You usually don’t know when you are sleeping on your back.”  What I am translating this conversation to mean is - we are going to keep testing you until we prove you have sleep apnea and can force you into a CPAP, a mouth guard (which I am told doesn’t work for individuals who already have a narrow airway), or surgery.
I finally had enough and told Dr. K I would like to discuss it with my family practice doctor before proceeding with any further testing and I would like my refund now, thank you.

I’m not sure I’ll go back for the overnight study.  I’m just too skeptical at this point and knowing my records were changed (inadvertently or not) just makes me too suspicious.  Plus, I cannot think of one single individual I know who has had a sleep study and been told they do not have sleep apnea and do not need a CPAP.  (Well I do know one, but she is pretty much a nut-bucket anyway and probably didn’t need the sleep study in the first place!)

I know there are folks out there who swear they’ve never felt better since they have their CPAP to keep them company at night.  Good for you – I’m happy that works for you.  As for me, I’m still leaning towards SCAM.

30 comments:

  1. Well done Pat, enjoyed reading your blog! Love, Donna

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    1. LOL - true story, Donna!

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    2. I agree one hundred percent the very fact that they would give you a test knowing that they were going to have to repeat the same test with additional steps regardless of the results shows and extreme dishonesty in their practice with an intention to charge you or your insurance twice...... I mean if you're going to charge for all 20 things then just do the 20 thing test to begin with not only does the four thing test waste your time but it cost you or the insurance more money I'm going to the same thing right now except much worse they told my doctor they lost my results and it they had never even saw me and even though I told them I was only in town for a few months and that if we needed a follow-up we had to do it while I was in town they waited until all these months later to finally call me and tell me they need me to come back in tomorrow and do the in-house study and I was like no I don't think so if I decide to come back at all I'll call you

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I guess this experience is in the USA. I think someone in the Uk is also lining NHS GPs pockets too.

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  3. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (chronic pain syndrome) around 4 years ago and I've been rendered disabled according to the Federal government. Since I have to visit this pain management doctor which I haven't seen in nearly 6 months, he has this incompetent PA (physicians assistant) trying Lyrica out on me. No, no, no. In 6 days my wife was ready to leave the house because it turned me into this mean, angry person. Next on the brilliant Pa's agenda was sending me to a sleep study. I actually got to take the equipment home for test number one. They tell me that I have "obstructive sleep apnea", the deadliest "of course". Then one month later they ask me to have an overnight sleep study which I agreed to. That night was actually a true hell-like experience for me. That mask and all. Then when I finally got to sleep? The thing is waking me up, forcing air into my face. I sleep extremely light too so investing around a co-pay of $800.00? I seriously don't think so. I too believe that this is a huge medical scam. And since I'm a practicing first century Christian? I'll continue to keep God in charge of just when I check out of this flesh and not some greedy, bunch of medical entities,

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    1. Praise the Loard!

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    2. Bless God.

      I've felt that sleep studies are a scam for years, but never investigated it until my Mom in law is presently being set up for it.

      Much appreciate your words and insight.

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  4. I was referred to a sleep clinic when I told my doctor I was having trouble sleeping. I went for one night to this sleep study. I found out they were testing me for sleep apnea. I told them that I know I do not have sleep apnea and that my problem was insomnia. I did not go back. They rocked my insurance for 1500 and are going after me for 1500. SCAM is right.

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    1. Insomnia is a symptom of UARS which is in the family of Sleep Apnea. If left untreated it will progresss to OSA.

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  5. I was referred to a sleep clinic when I told my doctor I was having trouble sleeping. I went for one night to this sleep study. I found out they were testing me for sleep apnea. I told them that I know I do not have sleep apnea and that my problem was insomnia. I did not go back. They rocked my insurance for 1500 and are going after me for 1500. SCAM is right.

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  6. This is great article. They are trying to do this to my son. My wife thinks doctors do things for the good of people. She doesn't realize it's a business and these doctors are trying to make money off you.

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  7. I am a 62 year old male, Caucasian, 5'8" and weigh 216 pounds, so somewhat overweight and I live in Fort Collins, Colorado at 4500 feet altitude.

    I am tired a lot of the time although somewhat physically active. I sleep 5-7 hours each night but it's troubled sleep due to fretting over other issues.

    I explained all of this to my PCP (primary care physician) and was set up for an overnight "sleep apnea" test in a dedicated lab.

    Upon entering the lab the technician actually told me that I would be diagnosed with sleep apnea so first things first, I had to pick out my mask and the pump that I would be taking home. That they would keep adjusting the air flow rate during the night as required until I demonstrated the symptoms of sleep apnea. This was such an incredible statement that I had her repeat it in greater detail, which she did.

    Now I have great insurance so this test was not going to cost me much so I went along for the ride to see what would happen and to have the knowledge to make my own (now experienced) opinion.

    I of course I believed that the whole procedure was fraudulent and I never did get the mask or machine, even though my insurance company would have paid for it 100%.

    But let's talk about the machine: The pumps I've seen only compress the air, they do not modulate it. That is to say they do not stop pumping when you need to exhale. Unlike a heart pace-maker they do not control when you inhale or exhale.

    Therefore, the only affect they have on your air movement is that they compress the air ever so slightly creating denser air, assuming that the mask does seal to your face which they probably don't. But (most likely) less than if you moved your bed from the 2nd floor to the first floor or to a region with a higher barometric pressure.

    So how does the CPAP help those it helps? All I can think of is it must be the white noise sound it makes or that it is all a psycho-sematic effect.

    Mechanically, I can just see no way that a CPAP could help your breathing in the way that an Iron Lung would. It just is not physically, mechanically possible, especially since it does not shut off the flow when exhaling.

    Robert S in Fort Collins

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    1. Hi there,
      Just thought I'd clear the air on how CPAP therapy works!

      CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and that's exactly why you weren't feeling any relief on exhalation! The pressure that you exhaled against actually creates a back pressure that helps to "pop open" - if you will - the airway, almost like a balloon. CPAP is not meant to help you breathe, per se, but to prevent the blockage in the upper airway!

      It's so sad to me when people have these unfortunate experiences with CPAP therapy because I believe it's either an uncaring clinician and a lack of proper patient education.

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  8. Is there a general rule about sleep doctors being called "Dr. Z"? Mine's last name starts with a Z as well, and my experience was eerily similar, Dr. Z gave me a sheet with a long list of Terrible Things that'll happen to you if your apnea goes untreated, and the nurse there sounded practically disappointed when she announced my sleep study (to the tune of $800!) said I probably don't have sleep apnea, and immediately after telling me recommended I do another pulse oximetry test just in case. Sorry you're missing out on all those sweet CPAP dollars, doc!

    RZ in Blacksburg VA

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  9. The above comments confirm my experience and wish I had read them first before getting involved with this baloney (and paying a lot for it). Without going into the whole story, here is just one part of it: after the sleep at the hospital the verdict was conservative approach would be sufficient, that is, lose weight, 9 kilos to be exact. Only trouble was the weight figure the Dr was looking at was fully clothed. It was 6 kilos over my actual weight. I was also told losing weight would fix my snoring but I don't snore and the sleep study confirmed that. As I said, absolute baloney. David from Australia

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  10. It also causes sinusitis,bronchitis,hay fever..and severe allergy type systems no matter how much i wash it in vinegar and alcohol..I never had allergy symptoms until i started using a cpap..Went to an Allergy Dr and they put about 50 needle pricks in my back..Results were negative for any know allergies..It is without a doubt caused by cpap machine..i even got a new one,5 different type masks,results same thing..red weeping eyes ,bags under eyes and sneezing my butt off..I now am off cpap and problem is beginning to clear up..I'm done with the CPAP..

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  11. Great information from all of these post. Also, your story was very well written and clear as to what may well be going on in the "medical" industry. Here is a new wrinkle that I will share quickly. I am a CDL Class A professional truck driver. I have done this for over 20 years. Drivers are required to take a DOT physical every year. I have never had a problem passing the physical until now, 2016. I passed every normal test and at the end, expecting to get my medical card approved, was told I had some "risk factors" for sleep apnea. Now, I am forced to go through what everyone else has described but have no choice because my long time job is taken away from me until I comply with getting and using a CPAP machine. As of this date the Federal Motor Carrier regulations do NOT require this testing of drivers. However, the medical industry has taken it upon them selves to bypass the law and go ahead and require drivers to comply with this now. They have done this by first arranging control over which doctors can do a DOT physical. The doctor must be "certified" by them. Then, they lay out the sleep apnea issue as a major risk factor for drivers. At that point all the burden is put on the doctor to send you for a sleep study because of the chance of liability should a driver be involved in an accident. Any way, long story short, I can see how the game is "rigged" against truck drivers. It is comply or you do not work! That is your choice. Oh, one last thing that many people may find "interesting" and a sign of life to come for us all. Many of these CPAP machines have "chips" built in that record if you are using it! Yes, now that is truly "big brother in your bedroom", big time. All choice is taken away. Your freedom is completely taken from you. It does not take much imagination to see how this type of intrusion in your privacy will be forced on the general population soon. Good luck to us all, it is indeed a "Brave New World". It has arrived.

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  12. I just took a sleep test at a clinic last night. Recommended because I told my doctor I was having trouble sleeping. In my consultation with the sleep doctor, he looked at my throat and said I did not have a narrow passage, which would have automatically indicated apnea. So...

    Before the test even started, I was asked to make ANOTHER appointment so they could do another test with my CPAP machine. Wait... you don't even know if I have apnea! And, is that all this freakin test searches for? Apnea? Well, after a difficult night's sleep (who the heck can sleep normally in a strange bed with electrodes stuck to your head and face?) I was told I definitely "qualified" for a cpap. Yeah, no kidding. I wasn't there to "qualify" for anything. It is like they assumed I wanted one. Well, I do not. I am 42 years old, I snore sometimes, according to my wife, but who doesn't? I have not died in my sleep yet, so I am pretty sure I won't in the future.

    I think this entire industry is set up to sell you this machine. I feel like the CPAP machine is to this decade like Prozac was to the 90's, or Ritalin was to the 80's.

    Thanks for writing this blog entry. So happy to see that I am not alone and that someone else had a similar experience!

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  13. My husbands employer is making him take this test even though the truck he drives is under the CDL test limit weight. They will not pay for this test and we were quoted $2,600 for the cost of the test and $250 per month to rent a machine ( which I am sure they will try to sell us as it looks like everyone who takes this test fails and is required to get the machine) We live in Washington State....how is any of this even legal????

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  14. I worked for a sleep apnea medical supply place in Missouri. It is a money making racket, I promise you. Especially for the folks that have Medicare and Medicaid. We had a data base that singled those people out and knew when it would pay for new mask, etc. I had to finally quit because they were making poor people come back in that had to pay their party, after ins, and their part was usually $300 and they didn't have that just laying around. I've heard all the stories of how much better they sleep, yada yada yada....good for them. It's still a huge expense to ins companies and sometimes the patient. Racket is what I'd call it.

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  15. Using one example from a family member? That's some real good journalism Anna. I assume is that this is an 8th grade assignment because you look like you are 12. Enjoy your stroke, diabetes, and 10 years off your life, Anna's mom.

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    1. Enter the Sleep Clinic Doctor, or victim suffering from a version of Helsinki Syndrome of this. You might not think there is a racket but I have done some digging of my own and found well paid doctors setting up these clinic in expensive parts of town to milk extra money from people, when asked about alternative treatments they always discount them as "proven" ineffective (search yourself this is NOT the case). All they want to do is sell you and your insurance a life-long requirement (buy a machine, it will eventually break...) not to mention supplies. Look at so-called "dental" appliances (no money to be made as they are cheap so they are not pushed on people), and surgery which while not that cheap would be much cheaper in the long run (and if surgery works it effectively is a cure, where all the rest are only prevention of symptom treatments). CPAP may have a place but not as the fist and only option given due to who it makes rich.

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  16. Thanks to everybody here for your comments; it's helped me to decide to ignore this.

    A few weeks ago I was under a lot of stress, and my blood pressure was up (splitting with my wife atm) and also, I was sleeping late (11:00PM). Told my GP, and he referred me for one of these initial sleep tests, which I conducted. I am supposed to go and get the results next week.

    Firstly, I AM overweight, but I knew this, and in 5 weeks I have lost 5 kilos. My wife told me that I snore, but also "I can fall asleep fully within sixty seconds" and I NEVER EVER wake up feeling lethargic. During the test, I did wake up twice; once to pee, and also once because in our house, we have a problem with these very tiny flies. At night, they tend to fly up my nose and down my throat, I have seen them on my tongue in the morning.

    Of course, this makes me cough, choke, and wake up......but they told me to exclude the facts about these insects.

    And yes, I agree with the older chaps comments above; I used to dive, and know all about pressure, boyle's law, inhale / exhale etc. And I cannot see how a CPAP device would correctly regulate airflow. If you DID stop breathing at night, how would it compensate like an emergency respirator by blowing air into your lungs and inflating them?

    The more I think about it, the more it seems like a bunch of crap.

    Thanks for this blog guys.

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    1. It doesn't regulate air flow! It stents the airway open! Like a door stop!!1

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  17. Hahahahaha!

    I just got a call from them with my results, apparently they need to see me "Urgently", and "My health is severely at risk". This is due to my post-study results.

    Now, let me see, before I saw these guys, I saw my GP (who referred me for this) and after eight weeks of being on my diet, my results are:

    * I have lost eight kilos in weight.
    * My BP is 123 over 70 (I'm 50 years old)
    * I have no nasal or breathing obstructions at all
    * I've never smoked, and my lung volume is excellent.

    So, from all of these facts, I cannot for the life of me why I am "At severe risk".

    My brain is just saying SCAM, SCAM, SCAM!

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  18. I also had a sleep study and could not sleep with all the wires hooked up to me. They told me that I have sleep apnea because I did not hit the deeper levels of sleep. Of course I didn't. I was uncomfortable and couldn't sleep.

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  19. I just was coerced into taking an overnight sleep study which was a nightmare. Lots of the reasons why are mentioned here plus a lot more. The cpap machine made me feel like I was drowning and there is no way in hell i will ever use one. I can't wait for my follow up to have this doctor (new to me) have a piece of my mind. I am pretty sure I will be getting a new doctor. I'm positive it's a kickback scheme.

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