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OSA Diagnosis

Timely diagnosis of your sleep apnea is important to prevent complications. Your doctor may request that you attend a sleep laboratory for a sleep test, or do a test with equipment that you can use at home

What should I do if I think I may have sleep apnea?

Early detection and diagnosis are important when it comes to sleep apnea. For a start, it may be helpful to ask a partner, family members or friends if you snore loudly or have pauses in breathing during the night. They are usually the ones who notice it first. Other ways to assist self-detection include the quick and simple Stop-Bang Questionnaire to identify key risk factors, and recording yourself sleeping.

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible. A diagnosis of sleep apnea can only be made with a sleep study, at a sleep clinic or at home with special equipment and specialized professionals.

VISITING YOUR DOCTOR

Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and carry out a physical examination before deciding whether you should be referred to a sleep lab.

The sleep specialist may ask about your symptoms and medical history. You will probably have to fill in a form - usually the Epworth Sleepiness Scale - about how sleepy you feel when awake. They may also measure your weight and your neck circumference and do some breathing tests. If you show symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the specialist will prescribe a sleep study to confirm the diagnosis.

TESTING YOUR SLEEP

The overnight sleep study carried out at a sleep clinic is the most comprehensive way of diagnosing sleep apnea. It involves a test, known as ‘polysomnography’ that records the following detailed information during the night:

  • Brain activity (electroencephalography)
  • Muscle tone (electromyography)
  • Movement of chest and abdomen
  • Airflow through your mouth and nose
  • Heart rate and blood oxygen levels (pulse oximetry)
  • Heart electrocardiography (EEG)
  • Eye movement

None of these procedures are painful. Sound recording and video equipment may also be used.

Once the tests have been completed, the doctor at the sleep clinic will tell you whether or not you have OSA, how much it interrupts your sleep and impacts your health, and consequently recommend the appropriate treatment.

Comfort during testing

Whilst it may at first seem that wearing some diagnostic equipment when you go to bed may be strange, most patients find that the testing process is not unduly uncomfortable and most manage to fall asleep normally.