Do you snore loudly, choke or gasp during sleep or generally feel sleepy during the day? Do you experience morning headaches, problems concentrating or mood swings? These are possible symptoms of sleep apnoea and could have serious consequences.
If you suspect you have sleep apnoea, it makes sense to keep a sleep diary for two weeks with the following information:
What time you go to bed each night.
What time you get up in the morning.
How many times you wake during the night.
Whether you feel rested when you wake up.
If you take naps during the day.
Whether you feel sleepy or rested throughout the day.
You should then visit your physician, taking this diary with you. He or she will ask you about your symptoms, how long you have had them, your sleep diary and medical history. The doctor may also check your mouth, nose or throat for abnormalities.
Confirming the diagnosis
If your physician thinks that you have a problem with breathing during sleep, he or she will send you to do a sleep study. The sleep study is painless and can be performed in a hospital, sleep centre or at home (as an outpatient). It will record several health variables as you sleep. These include your breathing pattern, brain activity, eye movement, heartbeat and oxygenation level. These indicators will allow your physician to calculate different parameters such as your Apnoea/Hypopnoea Index (AHI). AHI is generally used to determine the severity of sleep apnoea. With all this information, your physician will be able to confirm if you suffer from sleep apnoea and determine whether you require treatment or not.
There are two main types of apnoea: obstructive, where the airway becomes obstructed with soft tissue, and central apnoea, where the basic neurological controls for breathing rate malfunction and fail to give the signal to inhale. The most common type of apnoea is obstructive, which can occur in mild to severe forms. Some people could suffer from both types simultaneously, and this is referred to as mixed sleep apnoea.