How can I test myself for sleep apnea?

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Sleep apnea is a common condition that causes you to stop breathing for short intervals while you sleep. If left untreated, it can have significant health effects over the long term. This resource helps you identify the common symptoms of sleep apnea. It also helps you understand your risk factors for this chronic disease. A self-assessment will help while discussing your sleep apnea risk with your health care provider.

The following questions will help you assess your risk for sleep apnea:

1. Do you experience any of these problems?

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

2. Do you ever wake from sleep with a choking sound or gasping for breath?

3. Has your bed partner noticed that you snore or stop breathing while you sleep?

4. Do you have any of these other symptoms?

  • Nocturia (waking during the night to go to the bathroom)
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Irritability

5. Do you have any of these physical features?

  • Obesity – body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher
  • Large neck size – 17 inches or more for men, 16 inches or more for women
  • Enlarged tongue or tonsils
  • Recessed jaw
  • Nasal polyps or deviated septum

6. Do you have any of these other medical problems that are common in people with sleep apnea?

  • High blood pressure
  • Mood disorders
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Type 2 diabetes

If your doctor suspects sleep apnea, they may recommend a sleep monitoring test. Also called a sleep study or polysomnography (PSG), it involves spending the night at a lab, clinic, or hospital. Your breathing and other vital signs will be monitored while you sleep.

It’s also possible to monitor your sleep in your own home. Your doctor might suggest at-home sleep monitoring if your symptoms and risk factors strongly suggest sleep apnea.

An At-Home Sleep Test:

An at-home sleep test is a simplified version of an in-lab test. There’s no technician. Instead, your doctor will prescribe a portable breathing monitor kit that you’ll take home.

Most at-home sleep apnea monitors are easy to set up. They generally include the following components:

  • a finger clip that measures your oxygen levels and heart rate
  • a nasal cannula to measure oxygen and airflow
  • sensors to track the rise and fall of your chest

Unlike an in-lab test, an at-home test doesn’t measure your sleep cycles or position or limb movements during the night.

Following the test, your results will be sent to your doctor. They’ll contact you to discuss the results and identify treatment, if necessary.

Treatment options:

Treatment depends on the severity of your sleep apnea. In some cases, lifestyle changes are all that’s required. These may include:

  • losing weight
  • using a special sleep apnea pillow
  • changing your sleep position

There are a number of effective medical treatment options for sleep apnea.

Read: Sleep Apnea Treatments for more information and treatment options.