If you are suffering from sleep apnea, the advisable thing to do is to see a sleep disorder specialist. A specialist is the only certified person who can help you determine your need for further assessment and treatment.

An assessment usually entails an overnight monitoring of your breathing and other major body functions during sleep.

Below are two tests that can be used to detect sleep apnea:

  • Nocturnal polysomnography (sleep study) – Here, the patient is hooked up to a machine that monitors their lung, brain, and heart activity, oxygen levels, arm and leg movements, and breathing patterns while they sleep.
  • Home sleep tests – The sleep specialist may provide the patient with less advanced tests to be used at the comfort of their home to diagnose sleep apnea. Usually, these tests measure the breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and airflow.

If the results turn out to be abnormal, your specialist may recommend a therapy without additional testing. If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the sleep specialist may refer you to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist to rule out the blockage in your throat and nose. Alternatively, an assessment by a heart specialist (cardiologist) or a neurologist might be vital in the case of central sleep apnea (CSA).

Treatment

For less severe cases of sleep apnea, your sleep specialist may prescribe only lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol and certain medications such as sleeping pills or tranquilizers, losing weight, or sleeping on your side rather than on your back. If you have nasal allergies, your sleep specialist will prescribe treatment for your allergies. 

If these measures do not ease your symptoms or if your apnea is severe, several other treatments are available. Certain devices such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP), and Oral appliances can help open up an obstructed airway. In other instances, surgery might be necessary.

Preparing for your sleep specialist appointment – What you can do

Before meeting your sleep specialist, try and make a list of the following:

  • Your symptoms, including those that you may consider unconnected to the reason for which you visited the specialist
  • Types of foods you eat most
  • All medications, supplements, vitamins you take
  • Personal information
  • The family history of a sleep disorder
  • Questions to ask your sleep specialist

Many health problems arise if sleep apnea is left untreated. From losing sleep to irritating your bed partner, to even developing severe medical conditions, sleep apnea is a disorder which can have immense consequences on your life. Actually, there is no reason not to have your apnea treated; because once you start your treatment, you will quickly realize the positive impact of getting enough quality sleep at night.