How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

sleeping man with sleep apnea

More than 20 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition that disrupts your breathing and nighttime rest. If you find yourself dozing off on your morning commute, unable to focus or stay awake at work, it may be time to speak with your primary physician about getting tested for sleep apnea.

Snore Score Quiz

There are many tools and methods for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea, including some preliminary tests you can take right in the comfort of your own home. For example, the American Sleep Apnea Association offers a Snore Score Quiz. If you answer “yes” to any of the below, you are encouraged to discuss your risk with a health care professional.

  1. Are you a loud and/or regular snorer?
  2. Do you often have problems with memory or concentration?
  3. Do you fall asleep reading, sitting, watching TV or driving?
  4. Have you ever been observed to gasp or stop breathing during sleep?
  5. Do you feel tired upon awakening, or do you wake up with a headache?
  6. Are you often groggy or fatigued during waking hours?

Diagnosing sleep apnea

If your Snore Score wasn’t great, the next step is scheduling an appointment with your primary doctor, who will evaluate your symptoms and perform a general physical exam. Your current condition and family history will also play a large role in determining whether you will be referred to a Sleep Specialist for further testing.

Doctor’s Visit

Keeping a “sleep diary” for 1-2 weeks that logs how many hours of rest you get, and how alert you feel during the days will be very helpful for your physician. Your doctor will ask if any family member has been diagnosed with a breathing problems or sleep apnea, which may suggest the disorder runs in the family. In addition, they will attempt to rule out other factors that may be affecting your sleep patterns such as mood disorders, substance abuse, prescription medication, or another medical condition. This is done through questions and a thorough physical examination of the nose, mouth and throat. People with sleep apnea typically have enlarged tissues in the soft palate and a pronounced uvula.

Sleep studies

Additional testing may be needed to diagnose sleep apnea. Patients may be asked to spend the night at an accredited sleep center, or take a sleep apnea test at home using monitoring equipment. In-lab sleep studies are some of the most accurate for diagnosis as they generate multiple records brain activity, heart rate, rapid eye movements and blood pressure as you sleep. The testing is known as “polysomnography,” and uses electroencephalogram (EEG), electroculogram (EOG), and electrocardiogram (EKG) for measurements.

Both professional sleep studies administered in a sleep lab and at-home testing provide a substantial amount of data on your sleep cycle and breathing interruptions. Of most importance is the apnea-hypopnea index – AHI – which marks breathing cessation that lasts 10 seconds or longer. An AHI of 5 to 15 is categorized as mild sleep apnea; 15-30 is moderate, while 30 or more is considered severe obstructive sleep apnea.

The severity of your sleep apnea, current health and age will help determine which sleep apnea treatment is most likely to provide results.

Sleep apnea treatment Suffolk County

Oral appliance therapy has proven a highly successful treatment for cases of mild to moderate sleep apnea. Pioneered by dentists, this non-invasive treatment can drastically improve the quality of your sleep and overall health. Dr. Elliot and Dr. Nick are highly-trained sleep apnea dentists in Suffolk County, who have years of experience treating both teens and adults.

To learn more about sleep apnea treatment in Suffolk County, NY, please call our Long Island practice and schedule a free consultation. You can reach our Rocky Point, NY office at (631) 296-0549.

Additional “Sleep Apnea Testing” Resources:

  1. SleepEducation.org, Sleep Apnea Diagnosis http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/sleep-apnea/diagnosis
  2. NIH, How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea/diagnosis
  3. SleepApnea.org, Getting a Sleep Apnea Diagnosis https://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/getting-sleep-apnea-diagnosis/

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Ava Lawson

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