Diagnosing sleep apnoea is complicated by the fact that the symptoms occur when you’re asleep. A doctor will often need to rely on the observations of your partner or family members to get an idea of what you’re experiencing.
How is sleep apnoea diagnosed?
Our doctors can assess your symptoms, or refer you to a sleep specialist, to find out whether your symptoms are caused by sleep apnoea.
During your online consultation
Our doctors will ask you questions to decide whether sleep apnoea is a possibility. Your answers will also help them rule out any other possible causes for your symptoms.
You might be asked about:
- Your symptoms - It may help to ask a partner or family member to write their account of what happens to you during the night, including a description of your breathing and snoring.
- Your sleep - The doctor might ask you to complete an Epworth Sleep Scale, which measures daytime sleepiness to see how likely you are to fall asleep in certain situations.
- Your medical history - For example, the doctor will be interested to know if you have suffered from any sleep disorders in the past.
- Any other medication you’re taking - Your symptoms could be a side effect of certain medicines.
- Your weight and neck size - Both of these factors could affect how likely you are to suffer from sleep apnoea.
Referral to a sleep specialist
At the end of your consultation, if our doctor decides your symptoms suggest you might have sleep apnoea, they can refer you to a sleep specialist straight away.
They’ll analyse your sleep to find out exactly what’s going wrong. This usually involves an overnight stay at a sleep centre, where your sleep will be tracked using a test known as a polysomnography.
The sleep specialists will use electrodes and sensors to monitor your snoring, breathing, heart rate and oxygen levels. There might also be an audio or visual recording of your sleep. The results will reveal whether or not you have sleep apnoea.
In some cases, the sleep specialist might provide you with the tools to monitor your sleep in the comfort of your own home. If this happens, the doctor will fully explain how to conduct the test properly.
How serious is your sleep apnoea?
If a diagnosis is confirmed, it’s important to measure the severity of your sleep apnoea in order for the doctor to decide on the appropriate treatment. This is done according to how many times your airways are blocked and your sleep is interrupted during the night.
- Mild sleep apnoea - sleep is interrupted 5 to 14 times per hour.
- Moderate sleep apnoea - sleep is interrupted 15 to 30 times per hour.
- Severe sleep apnoea - sleep is interrupted more than 30 times per hour.