Updated: January 24, 2018
An overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions during sleep can help diagnose sleep apnea.
Diagnosis can be made based on your signs and symptoms. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep disorder center where, a sleep specialist can help you decide on your need for further evaluation. An overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions during sleep are done in such evaluation. Home sleep testing may also be an option. Tests to detect sleep apnea may include:
This is also known as sleep study. In this test electronically transmitted specific physical activities are recorded while you sleep. A qualified sleep specialist will analyze the recording to determine whether you have sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder.
During this test, you are hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you are sleeping. When hooked up to these equipment, most people fall asleep with little difficulty as these may be uncomfortable.
The signals generated by your brain and muscle activities will be send to the measuring equipment through surface electrodes which will be put on your face and scalp. These signals are then recorded digitally. Belts will be placed around your chest and abdomen to measure your breathing and a bandage-like oximeter probe will be put on your finger to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood.
You can also perform some simplified tests at home to diagnose sleep apnea which usually involve measuring your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow and breathing patterns.
The test results will show drops in your oxygen level during apneas and subsequent rises with awakenings if you have sleep apnea. Mostly a therapy will be prescribed by your doctor without any further testing if the results are abnormal. But in some cases your doctor may still recommend polysomnography even if your initial results are normal as portable monitoring devices do not detect all cases of sleep apnea.
Your doctor may refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor to rule out any blockage in your nose or throat if you have obstructive sleep apnea. To look for causes of central sleep apnea an evaluation should be done by a cardiologist or a neurologist.
In many cases, obstructive sleep apnea and possibly central sleep apnea can be treated with some lifestyle modification and home remedies. These include:
30 minutes of moderate activity, such as a brisk walk, if done most days of the week can ease the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.
In some cases sleep apnea may be completely eliminated if you are able to maintain a healthy weight. Even a slight loss in excess weight may help reducing the fat deposited around your upper airway which are obstructing your breathing.
Your tongue and soft palate rest against the back of your throat when you are sleeping on your back. This will block your airway causing breathing problem. So by sleeping on your side or abdomen rather than on your back, you may be able to eliminate sleep apnea.
A saline nasal spray can be used to help keep your nasal passages open at night. But as these are are generally recommended only for short-term use, speak to your doctor about other option if it has to be taken for long term.
If you are a smoker, quit smoking as smoking worsens obstructive sleep apnea.
These substances relax the muscles in the back of your throat causing interference with breathing.