Sleep apnea and snoring are evaluated based on the signs and symptoms that are being manifested by the patients. They may be referred to a sleep disorder center where a sleep specialist can help determine a need for further evaluation, which usually involves an overnight monitory of the patient’s breathing and other body functions while the patient sleeps. Although it is recommended that the patient stay at the sleep disorder center for this, home sleep testing has been gaining much popularity because it is often easier, more comfortable, and less expensive for the patient.
One test that may be done to detect sleep apnea is nocturnal polysomnography, which involves hooking the patient up to equipment that will monitor his heart, lung, and brain activity while he sleeps. Breathing patterns, body movements, and oxygen levels will also be monitored during this period.
Home sleep tests are simplified tests that the patient can use at home to be able to diagnose whether or not he has to sleep apnea. These tests also require the patient to measure his heart rate, blood oxygen levels, airflow, and breathing patterns during sleep. If the patient does have sleep apnea, then the tests will reflect a drop in the oxygen level during the periods of breath cessation during sleep, and a subsequent rise in oxygen levels when the patient awakens. When the results showing deviation from the normal values, the doctor may prescribe therapy without requiring any further testing. On the other hand, if the home sleep test registers normal values, the doctor may still recommend polysomnography because portable monitoring devices are not able to detect all cases of sleep apnea.
Upon confirmation that the patient has obstructive sleep apnea, the doctor will refer the patient to an otolaryngologist to verify if there is any blockage in the notes for the throat. An evaluation by a cardiologist will also be necessary to be able to identify the cause of central sleep apnea.