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Sleep apnea is characterized by brief periods during which you stop breathing entirely while at rest. Because you are unconscious when breathing cessation occurs, you may not be aware of a potential problem. People around you may report observed symptoms to you, such as snoring, choking, or gasping. You may also recognize secondary symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness or morning headache. Symptoms such as these, however, may be caused by something other than sleep apnea and may not necessarily indicate a serious problem at all. One of our doctors can perform tests to make a sleep apnea diagnosis and rule out other factors.

Subjective Self-Assessments

A subjective account of your symptoms can help a sleep apnea doctor in our clinic better understand the nature of your problem and decide what further testing would be helpful. There are two self-assessments that your doctor may ask you to fill out. One is the Berlin Sleep Questionnaire, and the other is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

The Berlin Sleep Questionnaire consists of 10 questions, arranged into three categories, about the symptoms you have noticed as well as those that other people have reported to you. The answers are then assigned a point value. A positive score of at least two in two or more categories indicates a high risk for sleep apnea. The Berlin Sleep Questionnaire also requires you to indicate your height and weight to calculate body mass index. A high BMI may increase your risk of sleep apnea.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a simpler assessment. It requires you to rate your chances of dozing off during a number of activities on a scale of zero to three. A score of zero means that you would never doze off during the activity, while a three indicates that the chances of dozing off during the activity are high. As with the Berlin Sleep Questionnaire, a higher score on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale indicates a greater risk.

In addition to assessments such as these, your doctor may also ask you to keep a sleep diary tracking your sleeping and waking patterns for two weeks.

Objective Sleep Evaluations

In addition to subjective information about your symptoms and sleep patterns, your doctor also requires objective data in order to make a diagnosis of sleep apnea. Your doctor may require you to undergo a sleep study in the laboratory, or you may have the option of completing a home sleep apnea test.

You may be a candidate for a home sleep study if you have no significant medical conditions and the likelihood that you have moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is high. You can obtain the necessary equipment from a sleep apnea doctor, who can instruct you on how to use it.

However, it may be necessary for you to have an overnight sleep study in the lab instead. This test is performed under supervision and requires you to spend the night away from your home. The equipment used for an in-laboratory sleep test is more complex than that required for a home sleep apnea test. Therefore, it requires the assistance of lab technicians.

Regardless of which type of test you have, the equipment will measure your breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, and airflow. The intensity of your snoring and the movements of your limbs may also be measured.

Next Steps

This information allows your doctor to conclude whether you have sleep apnea or if another condition may be responsible for your symptoms. For patients who do have sleep apnea, we can recommend an appropriate treatment based on its severity. Possible treatment options include oral appliances, continuous positive airway pressure, and surgery. If you have been wondering “where are there sleep apnea doctors near me?” contact Summit OMS.