What Should You Know BEFORE Getting Medically Evaluated or Scheduled for a Sleep Test?
There are several reasons why a physician or medical professional may prescribe a sleep test for you. Most common reasons may include one or more of the following:
- Snoring regularly
- Witnessed gasping or choking sounds
- Tossing and turning during sleep
- Unexplained daytime fatigue or sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Change in personality, often increase is moodiness
- Increase in weight
- Feeling unrefreshed after awakening
All of these symptoms listed can make you suspect for obstructive sleep apnea, a common yet serious breathing disorder that occurs during sleep. During obstructive sleep apnea, a narrowing or blockage in the back of the throat causes a person to have lowered oxygen levels in the blood. This in turn can cause many serious medical conditions including increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Undergoing a sleep test is the only way to confirm a potential diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, and often the place to start when a person is struggling with snoring complaints. Here a few points to be aware of:
If your medical provider states that you are low risk for apnea and discourages prescribing a sleep test because one of the following, realize that his or her knowledge is outdated or limited:
- You are a woman
- You are not overweight
- You do not feel excessively sleepy during the day
- You sleep well overall
If the physician dissuades you from getting a thorough diagnosis consider seeking another opinion. Many severe apnea patients feel overall very healthy but may have only one of the symptoms listed above, and are shocked to find out they have apnea.
There are several types of sleep-snoring evaluation processes to test if you have apnea:
- An overnight stay at a sleep testing facility. This type of study is usually performed at a facility within a room that looks like a hotel room. A polysomnogram uses sensors to various parts of your body recording brain waves, heartbeat, breathing, and movements. It is considered the gold standard of sleep diagnosis.
- A home sleep test unit used on sight in your home. Although not as detailed as a sleep lab test, this type of testing is being prescribed more commonly than in the past years.
Which test is prescribed may be determined by:
- What other medical symptoms or conditions you may have
- The preference/knowledge of the medical provider
- Access to care
- Insurance guidelines
It is to your advantage to know the medical guidelines in relation to what treatments are recommended for apnea BEFORE you get tested. Should apnea be confirmed, knowing all treatment options can help guide you to your best treatment option for your lifestyle. Many patients are shuffled through the entire process assuming they will be using CPAP therapy(Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device), even for the mildest of apnea cases. Some physicians or sleep facilities may not offer all treatment options due to limited access. CPAP therapy is a very good option in treating apnea, however, many patients can not tolerate CPAP or are interested in an easier alternative treatment.
You may be awakened during a sleep lab test to try a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device) if you reached a certain level of apnea events in the 1st part of the night. This DOES NOT mean you will necessarily need to use a CPAP thereafter. But it does mean you were most likely scored positive for apnea. If you choose treatment of the apnea with an oral device down the road, it may help the insurance process that you did attempt CPAP therapy.
Included in the current 2019 medical guidelines for obstructive sleep apnea treatment are as follows:
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) Device is recommended as the first line of treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Oral appliance therapy (OAT) is recommended for the treatment of snoring without apnea
- Oral appliance therapy (OAT) is also recommended for the treatment of adult patients who are intolerant of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or PREFER alternate therapy.
- The new guideline supports increased teamwork between physicians and dentists noting that the board-certified sleep medicine physician should take the patient’s preference into consideration when prescribing treatment for sleep apnea.
- Weight loss, lifestyle changes, and a change is sleeping position may be recommended as well.
- Surgery is rarely recommended as a primary treatment option but often combined with other treatments for better success.
Request a consultation after your sleep test results are in. Some patients are guided through the CPAP treatment process without a prior discussion of the diagnosis and all treatment options available for obstructive sleep apnea.
Understanding of the above points will help provide clarity during the snoring evaluation and testing process, helping you reach more restful and healthy sleep quicker.