Sleep apnea plagues millions of Americans. The medical field is constantly learning more about this dangerous sleep disorder. As we continue to learn more about the effects that sleep apnea has on the human body, diagnosis becomes more important. Sleep apnea impacts nearly every aspect of the human body in some way. Testing, diagnosis, and treatment can help prevent and even reverse the dangerous side effects of this risky disorder.
At the Bethesda Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Bethesda, Maryland we see our fair share of sleep apnea patients. We’ve become quite familiar with the tests required to diagnose the sleeping disorder and even play a hand in treatment options.
If you’ve presented with some of the common symptoms of sleep apnea then your doctor may suggest you undergo a sleep study. Sleep apnea symptoms can be hard to nail down because they often go unnoticed by the person suffering from the disorder. Usually a spouse or partner is the first person to notice most symptoms.
This specific sleep disorder causes you to stop breathing during sleep due to a collapsed or partially obstructed airway. This often results in excessive snoring, waking up gasping or choking for air, and noticeable pauses in breathing during sleep. A person with this disorder may frequently wake up with headaches, a sore throat, and feeling like they haven’t gotten any rest. Secondary sleep apnea symptoms include excessive tiredness during the day, inability to concentrate, and memory loss. Sleep apnea is also known to raise blood pressure and cause other health problems.
The sleep study recommended by your doctor to diagnose the disorder is called a polysomnogram. Most often, this sort of test is done in a sleep center; however there are options for testing at home. The polysomnogram has multiple components that record and transmit data gathered while you sleep. A sleep specialist then will analyze the data. If they suspect sleep apnea is a possibility, they may also refer you for further testing to determine which treatment option will work best for your case.
Most sleep studies take place in the controlled environment of a sleep center. You are provided with a private room within the sleep center that resembles a hotel room. Sleep technicians will monitor you from a nearby room.
Various equipment and sensors collect the required data for the sleep study. Most people don’t have any problem falling asleep with this equipment as it is designed to be comfortable and non-restrictive. If your study is being conducted in your own home, then you will be provided with the needed information gathering equipment. You will still need to use this equipment at home to collect the information which can be examined by a sleep technician.
The equipment used during the sleep study includes electrodes placed at key points on your face and scalp. These will collect data on your muscle and brain activity. Belts designed to measure breathing will be placed around your chest and abdomen. Blood oxygen levels are monitored by a blood oxygen level sensor that is placed on your finger.
The data is recorded or relayed to the monitoring room for analysis. There a sleep technician will watch your brain wave activity and muscle activity such as facial movements, teeth grinding, and any unusual leg movements. Eye movement is monitored in order to track the various sleep stages. The technician will also keep an eye on your heart rate and rhythm. A nasal airflow sensor will record the airflow from your nose. A small microphone will record your snoring.
The sleep technician will evaluate the collected data and provide the information to your doctor. It may take your doctor two weeks or so to evaluate the data and come up with a diagnosis. Your doctor will then set up a meeting to discuss the results of the sleep study. Based on their findings they will advise you if they believe you have sleep apnea. The severity of your sleep apnea will determine the urgency in the treatment plan. However, no matter what your degree of sleep apnea is, you should discuss treatment options with your doctor.
Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent any long term, potentially lethal damage from the disorder. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to severe heart problems including heart attack and even stroke. The long term effects of untreated sleep apnea can wear on your body and your mind in several ways. This is why it’s important to discuss treatment options with your doctor. Together you can find the best solution for your diagnosis.