Sleep is a necessary bodily function, but many people don’t get enough of it or don’t get enough quality sleep. Dedicating more time to sleeping might help some people, but it likely won’t do much good for those unaware they are suffering from sleep apnea.
Testing for Sleep Apnea
Anyone with sleep apnea symptoms should be tested, because it’s not just about getting a better night’s sleep. Abnormal or disordered sleep patterns are linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Some sufferers also experience personality shifts, which can impact their quality of life.
During a sleep study, or polysomnogram, you are monitored overnight in a sleep study facility or with portable monitors in your own home. Electrodes are attached to the body in various locations to measure body and brain activity. During sleep, sensors keep track of a number of important processes, including the heart rhythm (EKG), brain activity (EEG, while in a sleep facility), blood oxygen levels, movement, sleep state, the number and duration of spells when your breathing is altered. All of this information is analyzed and used to determine whether you have snoring or sleep apnea.
Often looking at the airway while asleep, a procedure known as a drug-induced sleep endoscopy (DISE) is required to determine the best treatment options. The ability to examine your throat while asleep can provide additional information about how it collapses. In a controlled environment, such as the operating room, you are given medication that will put you in light sleep. Once you begin to snore, a flexible, very thin video camera is placed through the nose and your airway is examined. A precise location of the site(s) of obstruction, for instance the palate, tongue, tonsils, sides of the throat, or epiglottis, is identified. This is usually a very quick procedure with little down time and anticipate returning to normal activities the next day.