Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

If you suspect that you or someone you love has sleep apnea, it is time to visit your doctor. Your doctor will base the diagnosis on your family history, a physical exam, and sleep study results. It is important to see your doctor about any concerns that impact your sleep and feeling of wellness. You should not be trying any sleep apnea treatments without consulting your doctor first.

Going to Your Doctor

Prior to seeing your doctor, you may wish to consider keeping a sleep journal for 1 to 2 weeks prior to the appointment. Write down what time you go to bed, how many times you woke through the night, what time you woke up and how rested you feel. You may also wish to note any naps you take or any periods of time where you noticed you may have nodded off. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a sample journal along with some other useful information. Once you are at the appointment, show your sleep diary to your doctor and answer any questions they may have for you. Be sure to include any information you have about sleep disorders within your family.

Your doctor will also check your nose, throat, and mouth for any swelling or extra tissue. Adults may have an enlarged soft palate or uvula, the soft tissue that hangs at the back of your mouth.

What to Expect from a Sleep Study

Sleep studies are conducted to examine how your body responds to sleep issues and how well you slept. The sleep test may be conducted in a sleep lab or a home sleep test. In both exams you will be fitted with sensors that record a number of things such as your heartbeat, brain waves and breathing. The equipment may look uncomfortable but most people fall asleep without difficulty.

Types of Tests and Equipment Used

There is some different equipment used to help diagnose the severity and type of sleep apnea you may be suffering from. Your doctor may choose one or a number of these tests based on your primary physical exam and consultation.

  • PSG (polysonmogram). This is the most common equipment used and records heart rate, brain activity, blood pressure, and eye movement. This device also measures the amount of oxygen in your blood, chest movements, snoring, and the amount of air moving through your nose while you sleep. This equipment can also be used to help determine the best CPAP settings for treatment
  • Home based portable monitor. This equipment will measure the air movements through your nose while sleeping, heart rate, chest movements, and the amount of oxygen in your blood
  • EEG (Electroencephalogram). This is used to record brain wave activity
  • EMG (Electromyogram). Used to record muscle activity like teeth grinding, facial twitches, leg movements. It can also determine the presence of REM sleep.
  • EOG (Electro-oculogram). This device can record eye movements to determine the different stages of sleep.
  • ECG (Electrocardiogram). These tests record heart rhythm and rate
  • Nasal airflow sensor. Used to record airflow.
  • Snore microphone. This is sometimes used to record your snoring activity.

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