A Night at the Sleep Center

Sleep Center

Diagnosing sleep apnea starts with an appointment with your family doctor. A history of possible sleep apnea symptoms is recorded. As sleep apnea symptoms are often seen alongside depression, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), asthma, obesity, and impotence, the doctor may ask questions that, on the surface, seem to have little to do with sleeping habits.

During the appointment the doctor also performs a physical exam, looking for evidence of physical sleep apnea causes. He or she will check the mouth, nose, and throat for possible obstructions.
As bed partners often that notice sleep apnea symptoms first, their input and observations can be very helpful when diagnosing sleep apnea. If bed partners can attend the doctor's appointment they can provide valuable information that aids in making a diagnosis.

Sleep Apnea Clinics

If the doctor suspects sleep apnea, the patient is usually referred to a sleep apnea clinic or sleep center for further tests. There the patient will meet with a sleep apnea doctor, who will ask further questions about the patient's symptoms.

If the sleep apnea doctor believes testing is required, the patient will return to the sleep center for a sleep apnea test.

A polysomnogram, or sleep recording, uses electrodes and other measuring devices to record the patient's sleep pattern. A polysomnogram is a painless procedure: sleep center staff fit the patient with the measuring equipment in the evening and the patient then sleeps in one of the sleep clinic's rooms under the watchful eye of the staff.

A polysomnogram sleep apnea test measure a wide range of sleep-related body functions, including:
  • Air flow through the lungs
  • Blood oxygen levels
  • Brain activity
  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Muscle movement
  • Rapid eye movement while dreaming.

In cases where patients cannot visit a sleep apnea clinic it is possible to take a sleep apnea test at home. This is not the usual procedure: sleep apnea tests are best performed at a sleep center. If circumstances require a home test, however, a sleep center can send a staff member to the house in the evening. The staff member will set up a portable version of the polysomnogram test, which records the sleeper's activity. In the morning, the machine is picked up and returned to the sleep center.

Sleep Apnea Test Results

After the sleep apnea test results have been analyzed, the patient has another appointment with the sleep apnea doctor to discuss his or her condition. At this time the sleep specialist will explain the causes of sleep apnea and discuss sleep apnea treatment options with the patient.

Disclaimer: The information contained within this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute in any way for care and treatment by a qualified health professional.

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