How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

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    How do you know if you have obstructive sleep apnea? We’ve gone over many of the symptoms, and probably by now you are “sure” you have it! But just in case you’re in doubt, let’s repeat some of them here with some more “in depth” explanations.

    Symptoms like snoring and silent pauses in breathing followed by choking and gasping sounds are all very common and obvious. Interestingly, people who suffer from sleep apnea are often unaware of just how much their sleep is disrupted. It is usually a bed partner or a family member that brings it to their attention as their own sleep is disrupted by the loud and often scary sounds.

    Other symptoms like unrefreshing sleep, fatigue, morning headaches, memory loss, and daytime sleepiness are also common. However, since most people suffer from sleep apnea for many years (and some of its effects come on gradually), they might think that these symptoms are “normal”—they don’t even know what a good night’s sleep feels like! Even worse, they often label themselves as lazy or unmotivated without realizing that they just never get a good night’s rest and have to power through the day because of their disease.

    It is estimated that more than 15 million people in America suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea. Many of these symptoms are so common that we, as a society, consider them “normal”. In truth, it might currently be “normal” to drink 4 cups of coffee and a Monster drink just to get through the day because so many people do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or healthy or makes sense.



    But to a doctor or dentist who is trained in sleep-disordered breathing, it does all make sense. Through asking the right questions and gathering information they can suspect that you have a disease and recommend a sleep test that will study your nighttime breathing, detect the abnormalities and determine if you have a disease. The sleep test will also determine the extent of the problem. Depending on how often the breathing is disrupted while you sleep, sleep apnea is classified as mild, moderate or severe. This information is crucial to develop successful personalized treatment recommendations.

    A sleep test is a non-invasive study of your nighttime breathing and some other body functions. Depending on your needs and doctor’s recommendations, the sleep test can be a polysomnopraph (performed in a clinic) or at your own home with a home sleep test.



    ​Polysomnography is a very detailed study of your sleep. You will spend a night in a sleep laboratory. There will be a private bedroom and you can bring your own nightclothes. After you arrive and check-in, a specially trained technician will attach small adhesive electrodes and other monitoring equipment to your body. These will help to record brain activity, heart rate and rhythm, oxygen levels in your bloodstream, and leg and other muscle movement. After the technician is done, you will be left alone to relax in your room. After you fall asleep the technician will monitor the instruments in a nearby control room. All the data from the instruments and electrodes will be recorded. Later on, a medical doctor who specializes in sleep disorders will evaluate the data and provide an accurate diagnosis based on the results of the test.

    Since children’s sleep is complex, they can only be tested for sleep apnea with polysomnography. When a child is tested, 2 bedrooms are usually provided—one for the child and an adjoining room for the parent.




    HOME SLEEP APNEA TEST is another option to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea.

    A home sleep test is performed in your own home. You will receive a kit with instructions and before you go to sleep at night you will set it up yourself. There are many different kits available but most will include a nasal cannula (a tube that goes under your nose to monitor airflow), pulse oximeter to monitor heart rate and blood oxygen level (usually a comfortable clip on your finger), a chest belt to monitor breathing pattern and a recorder to gather all the data. After you return the kit, the data will be analyzed by a sleep doctor.

    With a home sleep test, only airflow and oxygen are measured and the numbers are sometimes affected by the lack of monitoring of the other functions and parameters. However, there is an obvious convenience to this test as it can be done at home. Home sleep tests should be used in people that have a fairly significant level of obstructive sleep apnea as they tend to often overlook subtle changes in breathing.


    If your home sleep test says you DO NOT have sleep apnea, that may NOT be true and your results should be discussed with your doctor to see if an in-lab study would be appropriate to diagnose more complex sleep-disordered breathingIf your home sleep test says you DO have sleep apnea it is always correct.


    The sleep test is a non-invasive and easy way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. Many people are surprised to find out just how bad their sleep quality is. They also feel relieved to find out that some of the vague symptoms that they have suffered with through the years are actually caused by a very real disease.

    The best news is, once the disease is identified, there are non-invasive treatments available to help you to get a better night’s rest and ultimately a better quality of life.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects the airway. It can be divided into two main categories: central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. Diagnosis and treatment of this disorder require the collaboration of a sleep medicine physician, who will assess the patient's medical history, physical examination, and order appropriate tests such as polysomnography (sleep study) to diagnose sleep apnea. If positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is indicated, then referral to a sleep specialist or a comprehensive sleep center like BCOH may be necessary. During the sleep study, various parameters such as oxygen saturation levels, heart rate, respiratory effort, snoring intensity, and leg movements are monitored by multiple sensors attached to the patient’s body. A monitoring device is also used for diagnosing primary care respiratory disorders like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Treatment of Sleep Apnea is tailored to each patient's individual needs and might include lifestyle changes like weight loss and avoiding smoking; CPAP therapy; surgery; oral appliance therapy; positional therapy; or combinations of these interventions.


    Sleep apnea is diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional like BCOH. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in sleep medicine or dental sleep medicine. The diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea begins with a physical exam, a review of your medical history, and questions about your symptoms. Your doctor may order tests such as polysomnography (sleep study) to look for apnea episodes during sleep. If your doctor suspects that you have moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, he or she may recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP is the most common treatment for adults with obstructive sleep apnea. For people with severe obstructive sleep apnea, other treatments may be needed in addition to CPAP. A complete sleep apnea diagnosis is essential for successful treatment and improved quality of life.


    The symptoms of sleep apnea in adults can be easily diagnosed with a sleep study. Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring, frequent pauses in breathing during sleep, and excessive tiredness during the day. An overnight sleep study is the most effective way to diagnose this condition as it monitors your breathing patterns and oxygen levels while you get a good night’s sleep. If you have been experiencing apnea and snoring, it is recommended to consult your doctor for the management of obstructive sleep apnea. Depending on what type of sleep apnea you have, treatment options may range from lifestyle changes such as losing weight or avoiding alcohol to sleeping with a CPAP machine. Sleep apnea may also require continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or surgery if lifestyle changes are not enough to treat the condition.


    Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing stops or becomes shallow during sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea in adults, which occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway during sleep. People who are diagnosed with sleep apnea may experience pauses in their breathing during the night that can last from a few seconds to minutes, and these can occur multiple times throughout the night. Risk factors for moderate sleep apnea include being overweight, having a narrow airway, smoking, drinking alcohol before bedtime, asthma, and age. If you think you may have sleep apnea, it is important to talk to your doctor about it. Your doctor may ask you to keep a sleep diary or refer you to a sleep specialist who may hook you up to equipment overnight to monitor your breathing while you are asleep. Treatment for sleep apnea depends on the severity of your symptoms and includes lifestyle changes such as losing weight or avoiding alcohol before bedtime as well as medical treatments such as surgery or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Keeping a regular sleep schedule and keeping a sleep diary can also help identify possible risk factors for developing more severe forms of sleep apnea.


    Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can disrupt your sleep time. It is characterized by snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, which can cause the sufferer to stop breathing for a few seconds or longer. Treatment options for Sleep Apnea vary depending on the severity of the condition; if the apnea is moderate to severe, then hooked up to equipment during nighttime may be recommended. This typically involves wearing a mask connected to a machine that helps regulate breathing. For treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, changing the position in which you sleep may be helpful. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as weight loss and avoiding alcohol before bedtime can help reduce symptoms of Sleep Apnea. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to open up blocked airways and alleviate symptoms. No matter what treatment option you choose, it’s important to stick with it and follow your doctor’s instructions for the best results.


    Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that can have serious health consequences. To reduce your risk of developing sleep apnea, you should practice good sleep hygiene habits such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, keeping regular sleep hours, and avoiding screens for at least one hour before bed. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight is important in reducing the risk of sleep apnea, as obesity is a major risk factor for the condition. If you snore regularly or have other symptoms of sleep apnea, it is important to speak to your doctor about possible treatment options. With lifestyle changes and medical treatment, you can reduce your risk of developing sleep apnea and improve your overall health and well-being.


    Yes, there are some home remedies that can help treat sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where the airways are blocked while sleeping and snoring is a common symptom. Mild obstructive sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and smoking, as well as weight loss. You can also deal with obstructive sleep apnea by clearing or enlarging the upper airway, which can be done through a variety of methods such as throat exercises, avoiding sleeping on your back, and using a humidifier to reduce congestion. There are also medical devices that you can use such as CPAP machines to help with breathing during sleep. With these treatments and lifestyle changes, you can improve your quality of life by dealing with obstructive sleep apnea in the comfort of your own home.


    If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, there are several methods you can use to improve your sleep quality. One of the most effective treatments for this condition is to reduce or eliminate snoring and other upper airway blockages that can worsen the severity of obstructive sleep apnea. You may also want to consider a split-night sleep study to determine if you have moderate obstructive sleep apnea. If so, treatments such as CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) will help keep your airway open while sleeping, allowing more oxygen to flow through and improving sleep quality. Additionally, lifestyle changes like losing weight or avoiding alcohol before bedtime can help treat obstructive sleep apnea and improve your overall quality of life.


    Yes, there are support groups for people with sleep apnea. These groups provide a platform for people to share their experiences, learn from each other and make connections with people who have similar conditions. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the upper airway becomes blocked when sleeping, leading to snoring and interrupted breathing. People with severe sleep apnea may need to use a CPAP machine or undergo surgery in order to open the airway for obstructive sleep apnea treatment. Sleep apnea is more common than many people think and it can have serious consequences if it is not treated properly. Support groups can be helpful in providing comfort and understanding to those who are struggling with sleep apnea. They also provide resources on how to manage the condition and find effective treatments that work for them.


    If you suspect you may have obstructive sleep apnea, it is important to seek medical advice right away. Symptoms of this condition can include loud snoring and a pause in breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is an obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, which can lead to a decrease in total sleep time and an increase in the number of apnea or hypopnea episodes. If you notice any changes in your sleeping patterns, such as excessive snoring or waking up gasping for air, it is important to speak with a doctor who specializes in sleep apnea-based diagnosis and treatment. They may suggest you use a device that monitors your face while you sleep to determine if there are any signs of obstructive sleep apnea present. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health complications so it is important to get checked out as soon as possible.


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