Sleep Apnea - Diagnosis and Treatment

Sleep Apnea - Diagnosis and Treatment

02 Dec

Sleep apnea makes you snore loudly. But it causes bigger problems than that.

You stop breathing when you’re asleep. Maybe 30 minutes an hour or more every night.

Your airway gets blocked by:

  • Throat muscles that are too relaxed
  • Large tonsils, tongue, or soft palate
  • Fat your neck, about half a people with sleep apnea are overweight.


Common sleep apnea symptoms include:

  • Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
  • Loud snoring
  • Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
  • Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day
  • Sleepiness while driving
  • Morning headaches
  • Restless sleep
  • Recurrent awakenings or insomnia

Plus, it makes high blood pressure worse & raises the risk for heart problems.


Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, your doctor may ask you to have a sleep apnea test, called a Polysomnography. This may be done in a sleep disorder center or even at home.

A Polysomnography -- or sleep study -- is a multiple-component test that electronically transmits and records specific physical activities while you sleep. The recordings are analyzed by a qualified sleep specialist to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder.

If sleep apnea is determined, you may be asked to do further sleep testing in order to determine the best treatment option.

What to Expect During a Sleep Study?

On the night of your sleep study if you are in a sleep center lab, you will be assigned to a private bedroom in the sleep center or hospital. Near the bedroom will be a central monitoring area, where the technicians monitor sleeping patients.

You will be hooked up to equipment that may look uncomfortable. However, most people fall asleep with little difficulty.

Similar, more portable equipment is now available for home testing, especially for less complicated cases or situations.

Equipment Frequently Used for a Sleep Study

During a sleep study, surface electrodes will be put on your face and scalp and will send recorded electrical signals to the measuring equipment. These signals, which are generated by your brain and muscle activity, are then recorded digitally. Belts will be placed around your chest and abdomen to measure your breathing. A bandage-like oximeter probe will be put on your finger to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Other Tests for Sleep Apnea

  • EEG (electroencephalogram) to measure and record brain wave activity.
  • EMG (electromyogram) to record muscle activity such as face twitches, teeth grinding, and leg movements, and to determine the presence of REM stage sleep. During REM sleep, intense dreams often occur as the brain undergoes heightened activity.
  • ECG (electrocardiogram) to record heart rate and rhythm.


Treatments to keep your airway open:

Sleep apnea treatments range from lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or changing sleep positions, to CPAP therapy or mouthpieces, to surgery.

May help

You may be able to treat mild cases of sleep apnea by changing your behaviour, for example:

  • Losing weight
  • Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills.
  • Changing sleep positions to improve breathing.
  • Stopping smoking. Smoking can increase the swelling in the upper airway, which may worsen both snoring and apnea.
  • Avoiding sleeping on your back.

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