If you think you may have sleep apnea, you should visit your health care provider and let them know of your concerns. Usually, they will complete a physical exam and ask about your medical history for risk factors. There are several questionnaires your health care provider might ask you to complete to help determine your risk level.
There are a few things you can do to help prepare for this visit to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible, and to make sure that you are informed and can advocate for your health properly:
If sleep apnea is suspected, the best way to confirm a diagnosis is to have a sleep study. Your health care provider can help arrange an overnight sleep study. They may refer you directly to a sleep physician for consultation, diagnosis, and treatment.
A sleep study is sometimes performed in a sleep lab where a sleep technologist will monitor you while you sleep. Studies in a sleep lab usually involve sleeping while connected to several monitoring devices that measure things like breathing, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, body position, brain activity, and muscle activity. Although some people worry that they won’t be able to sleep while wearing sensors, most people find this is not a problem.
Some centers offer “full” sleep studies - the ones that measure brain activity as well as breathing - in a home setting. Some of these provide for remote monitoring of the study at a sleep lab while you sleep in your own bed.
Commonly, “limited” home sleep apnea tests are performed to identify sleep apnea. These tests are usually reserved for people with several risk factors for sleep apnea, but little risk for other sleep disorders or complicated medical conditions. They are similar to in-lab sleep tests, but the information collected focuses on breathing and oxygen levels, which are needed to make a diagnosis of sleep apnea. The devices are smaller and easy to set up, and the results are analyzed only after the device is sent back to the sleep lab. If your health care provider suggests a home sleep test, be sure to ask any questions you have, and make sure they explain the process and how to properly use the machine.