How to Diagnose Sleep Apnoea
POSTED 04 Apr 2016

Do you have sleep apnoea? Diagnosing the condition is not a matter of “feeling” or “thinking” one has the condition. Diagnosis entails not only a one’s medical and family histories but also a systematic physical examination, including the results of a comprehensive sleep study. Based on the results of these tests, a primary care doctor will decide if you need further consultation with a sleep specialist.

Sleep specialists are doctors who diagnose, treat or manage patients with sleep disorders. Most of these specialists are lung specialists, and ear, nose, throat (ENT) specialists. However, general practitioners may train to become sleep specialists.

Family and Medical Histories

Your bed partner is the first one who will notice if you have exhibit trouble during sleep. Your partner will surely notice if you have episodes of breathlessness while sleeping.

If you suspect you have sleep apnoea, keep a diary and for a week write down the time you go to bed, sleep, wake up and nod off for naps. Write down if you feel rested or alert when you wake up from supposedly good night’s sleep. Indicate if you feel tired, sleepy or cranky during the day. Do these for at least a week then show your primary care doctor the results. This should help diagnose your sleep disorder.

Your doctor will ask basic questions about your nighttime sleep and the way you function during the day. You need to ask your partner on the intensity of your snoring, and if you make choking or gasping sounds as you sleep as these points should be relayed to your doctor. Also try to find out if anyone in our immediate family has been diagnosed with any sleep disorder, including sleep apnoea.

Sleep Apnoea Tests

Initial tests include examination of your nose, throat and mouth for any enlarged or extra tissues. In this connection, most children with sleep apnoea have enlarged tonsils which confirm sleep apnoea in a way. Adults with sleep apnoea have enlarged uvula or soft palate. The uvula is the tissue hanging from the middle back of the mouth while the soft palate is the roof of the mouth.

The next step is to conduct sleep studies to measure how your body responds to sleep problems and to determine if you sleep well or not at all. The results of these tests will greatly indicate if you have sleep apnoea or not.

Home-based Portable Monitor or Polysomnogram

The two types of sleep tests to determine sleep apnoea are home-based portable monitor and polysomnogram or PSG.

PSG is the most widely accepted test to determine sleep apnoea. This test records the patient’s heart rate, brain activity, and blood pressure and eye movements while sleeping. This test will also determine the oxygen level in the blood, snoring and air movement through the nose while breathing, and chest movement. Movement of the chest will determine if effort is exerted when breathing.

Polysomnogram tests are done in sleep centers or sleep labs. This is painless test as all you have to do is sleep with sensors attached in strategic areas in the face, chest, scalp, limbs and fingers. The sensors will relay important details required to make correct diagnosis. When all tests have been collated and read, the doctor could now determine if you have sleep apnoea or not. He will be able to determine the severity or mildness of the condition and prescribed the correct CPAP therapy. In some cases, a doctor might recommend a split-night therapy wherein you will be required to sleep with a CPAP machine and sleep without one.

There are those who prefer home-based portable monitor. This test records the same information as a PSG and is done at the comfort of one’s home. A full instruction on how to do the test is given to the patient. The result is then read by a qualified doctor to determine one’s condition and if further tests are needed.

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