Your doctor will examine you and ask you and possibly your sleep partner some questions about your lifestyle, snoring, sleep behavior, and how tired you feel during the day (this is called a medical history).
Your doctor may ask you to complete a questionnaire, such as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. The answers to questions in this questionnaire can help the doctor find out if you have sleep apnea. If your doctor thinks that you may have sleep apnea, he or she may suggest that you have a sleep study in a lab or at your home.
Sleep studiesSleep studies are a series of tests that record what happens to your body during sleep. Polysomnography is the main way to detect sleep apnea. This test records electrical activity of your brain, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rate, breathing, airflow through your nose and mouth, and blood oxygen levels (saturation).
Other tests that you may have include:
- Blood tests to check for hypothyroidism (TSH test) or a high red blood cell count (complete blood count).
- ElectrocardiogramElectrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) or echocardiogram to see if sleep apnea has affected your heart.
Diagnosing sleep apnea in children
Most doctors follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics:3
- During a routine checkup, your doctor will ask you and your child about snoring. If your child snores, be sure to tell your doctor.
- A complete sleep study typically is needed to find out if your child has sleep apnea and is not just snoring.
- Children who have sleep apnea and other disorders, such as Down syndrome or sickle cell disease, may need to see a specialist.
Testing after initial treatment
To see how well your treatment is working, you may need sleep tests after treatment begins.
If your sleep apnea has not improved after initial treatment, and if enlarged tissues in your mouth and throat are causing it, your doctor may do one or more tests before suggesting surgery to remove the excess tissue. These tests may include:
- Fiber-optic pharyngoscopyFiber-optic pharyngoscopy, to see whether your airway is too narrow or collapses during breathing.
- CT scan of the headCT scan of the head to look for an overly large tongue and excessive soft tissue in the neck, as well as to locate the narrowest part of your airway.
- X-raysX-rays. A cephalometric X-ray is a type of head X-ray that allows your doctor to see bone deformities of the skull. This type of X-ray test may not be available in every hospital.