Sleep Apnea Diagnosis: Everything You Need to Know
The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates there are over 22 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea. Unfortunately, up to 80 percent of these people are undiagnosed. Your nightly sleep is one of the most important aspects of your health. If you suspect you have sleep apnea it is essential to visit with your health care provider to receive your diagnosis.
Knowing the most common symptoms, what to tell your doctor and the right questions to ask are all important to your physician’s diagnosis. Your doctor may recommend testing to help establish your diagnosis. After your sleep apnea diagnosis, you can work with your doctor to determine what the best next steps are for you. There is a wide variety of treatment options with some even being able to be delivered directly to your front door.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Knowing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea can help you determine if you need to have a conversation with your doctor. Sleep apnea is a complex disorder that can range from mild to very severe. The Mayo Clinic lists some of the symptoms that are most common in sleep apnea sufferers and they include:
- Snoring loudly
- Waking up gasping for air
- Loved one reporting that you gasp for air in your sleep
- Daytime sleepiness
- Feeling agitated from lack of sleep
Do you suspect you may have sleep apnea? Take our quick and easy online quiz. If you feel like any of these symptoms are disrupting your sleep, this could be a serious problem. Talk with your doctor and share the results of your quiz and the symptoms you have been experiencing.
Be Prepared for Your Doctor’s Visit
There may be the need to visit with a specialist doctor but your first visit should be with your primary care physician. Take notes with you on what you would like to discuss with them including any symptoms that you feel are pertinent to you.
Some important items that you and your doctor will discuss may include:
- Your medical history
- Sleep complaints
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Weight issues
- Heart specific issues
- Mental health concerns
During your consultation appointment, you can work with your doctor to assess the need for further testing and how related health conditions may be part of your diagnosis. During the process of being assessed for sleep apnea, your doctor may ask you to make other diet and fitness changes to improve the quality of your sleep.
Getting Your Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
After your initial consultation, your doctor will most likely refer you to a sleep disorder center. With the help of a sleep specialist, they will have you stay for the night.
The clinic will connect wires to you to analyze your breathing and heart rate while you are sleeping. This is a painless test which typically results in all the information your physician needs to determine your diagnosis. The test is specifically called a Nocturnal Polysomnography and also monitors your blood oxygen levels and brain activity while you are sleeping.
Your doctor may also refer you to an ear, nose and throat physician. You could have a referral to a cardiologist and sometimes a neurologist as part of the process of being evaluated for sleep apnea. All these specialists will work together to look for medical causes that could be part of a central sleep apnea diagnosis.
What to Do If You are Diagnosed with Sleep Apnea
The process of getting a diagnosis may have been relatively short or more drawn out depending on your medical complications.
So, you found out you’re one of the millions who have sleep apnea. Now what?
After diagnosis, you and your doctor will work together to decide what method of treatment would be best for you to start with
Most often a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is recommended for you to use at home. This is a reliable way to treat sleep apnea that most people find extremely helpful. It does take some time to adjust to wearing the device while you are sleeping though. You can minimize your discomfort by choosing a style of mask and machine that fits your comfort level the most.
Finding the right mask might take a little time. There are dozens of options available to you. Some of the options to consider when choosing a mask include:
- Nasal mask: Triangular in shape and sits on the face around the nose. It’s held in place by headgear (stretchy straps that go around the nose). Ideal for people who breathe through their nose while asleep, but can also be used for mouth-breathers by attaching a strap that goes under the chin to keep it shut.
- Full face mask: Sits on the face and covers the entire mouth and nose. This is the mask most people envision when they first think of CPAP masks. Ideal for mouth-breathers.
- Nasal pillows: Cushions that seal at the base of the nostril and are kept in place with a stretchy strap that goes around the back of your head. This is the least invasive mask available and ideal for nose-breathers.
Important things to consider when choosing a CPAP machine include:
- What type of machine is covered by insurance
- Can it monitor the usage
- Can data be downloaded and sent to your doctor
- Can it keep track of sleep quality
- Is there a carrying case included
- Can it be used on foreign currents while traveling
- Is there an attached heated humidifier
- A gradual increase in pressure while you sleep
- Bi-level for different pressures while inhaling or exhaling
Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition and it is important to get treatment and follow your doctors' recommendations. Being diagnosed with sleep apnea is the first step in taking back your sleep.
Buying your first CPAP machine can be overwhelming. Not sure where to start? We offer a wide selection of CPAP machines that help reduce the medical complications associated with sleep apnea.
Before you know it, you’ll be able to get back to sleeping through the night!
Written by Aaron Fuhrman