Testing and Diagnosis for Sleep Apnea

The diagnosis of sleep apnea is made by taking your medical and family history, a physical examination, and the result of a sleep test (polysomnography or PSG).

Your GP often performs an initial assessment, and decides whether to refer you for a sleep test.

History and Physical Assessment

Your GP might ask you questions about the length and quality of your sleep, symptoms of drowsiness or headache during the day, and how loudly you snore at night. You might not be aware of symptoms that occur when you sleep, such as if you stop breathing or gasp, and a bed partner or family member may need to report them.

Your doctor will examine your mouth, throat and neck for anything that might predispose you to a narrowed airway.

Diagnose Sleep Apnea

Sleep Study

A sleep study is the most accurate way to diagnose sleep apnea. It is an evaluation of your breathing and body functions overnight. There are two types of sleep studies: In-clinic and home-based.

Polysomnography (PSG) is a sleep study where your brain activity, eye movements, and vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure are recorded. In addition, they measure the oxygen level in your blood, airflow in your nostrils, chest movement, and snoring. Sometimes a video records your movements during sleep. The test is painless and these measurements are made through sensors attached to your face, chest, scalp, and fingers.

The test records:

  1. The number of times you stop breathing for at least 10 seconds (apnea)
  2. The number of times your breathing is partially blocked (hypopnea)
    The Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) is the number of apnea or hypopnea episodes you have in one hour. The AHI results are then used to diagnose sleep apnea.

A normal test result will show:

  1. AHI less than 5 (less than 5 episodes of apnea or hypopnea in an hour)
  2. Normal brain waves and muscle movements when you sleep.

An AHI greater than 5 may mean you have sleep apnea:

  • Mild sleep apnea: AHI 5-15
  • Moderate sleep apnea: AHI 15-30
  • Severe sleep apnea: AHI greater than 30

The final diagnosis and recommendations for treatment will also depend on:

  • Your medical history and symptoms
  • Other findings from the sleep test
  • Your physical examination

Diagnose Sleep Apnea

A home-based test is a simplified test done with a portable monitor that measures most of the same things. This is less expensive and allows the test to be done in the comfort of your own home. It is often recommended for patients with severe symptoms who have no other serious medical conditions that can interfere with the test results.

The results of the sleep test are analysed and interpreted by a Sleep Physician, and a Sleep Nurse or Therapist will then meet with you to discuss the diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, the Sleep Physician with recommend your treatment options. For more information about a bulk-billed Home Sleep Study on Gold Coast or in Brisbane, click here.

Screening Tests

Screening questionnaires to assess your of sleep apnea exist. Some only take a few minutes to give an accurate measure of your risk, and whether you should consider having a Sleep Study.

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