A screening examination may be the first test done to gather clues of the presence of snoring or sleep apnea. Characteristics of the condition include: loud snoring, gasping/choking while sleeping, daytime sleepiness, fragmented/restless sleep, morning headaches, teeth clenching/grinding, irritability, fatigue, anxiety/depression, poor work performance, poor memory, sexual dysfunction and work/driving accidents.
Diagnosis can only be achieved by means of an overnight sleep study. This test may be performed in your own home or in a hospital/clinic setting depending on the amount of detail required by the referring physician. During an “at home” sleep study a small machine is attached to the chest and additional sensors attached to a finger and under the nose to measure breathing and oxygen levels. An overnight sleep study in a sleep clinic will also have several other attachments that measure brain waves and heart function. A The final diagnosis will be made after a sleep physician (pulmonologist) reviews the results of your sleep study and determines the number of times an event occurred during your sleep (ex. a reduction in oxygen or an arousal from sleep).
Consultation with your primary physician may also be indicated to determine if there are any other factors affecting your sleep and overall health.
An apnea event is typically recorded when the blood oxygen drops more than 3-4% or when airflow stops for 10 to 120 seconds. Snoring and sleep apnea are divided into 4 categories:
Primary snoring without apneas = less than 5 events per hour
Mild sleep apnea = 5-15 events per hour
Moderate sleep apnea = 15-30 events per hour
Severe sleep apnea = more than 30 events per hour
Factors that increase the occurrence of sleep apnea include:
Male gender, increased age, obesity, limited airway space, large tongue size, hypothyroidism, alcohol/sedative use, smoking, being post-menopausal female.