Most of us use a doctor immediately starting treatment of a condition once the symptoms are reported. With sleep apnea, the situation is handled differently. After listening to the narrative of the distress that the patient is going through, the doctor will not initiate any therapy until a sleep apnea test is done and the results are interpreted and analyzed.
The sleep apnea test, also known as a polysomnogram examination, is the only objective diagnostic tool for confirming the type of sleep disorder the patient has and the severity of the condition. The latter aspect is most important since sleep apnea treatments are not only based on its causes but also on the severity of the condition.
The test can be done either at home or at a sleep clinic. Needless to say, tests done at home are not as elaborate as those done at a sleep clinic.
Several physical and physiological parameters are tested while the patient is asleep. These include the study of:
- brain waves by electroencephalogram (EEG)
- eye movements by electro-oculogram (EOG)
- muscular functioning by electromyogram (EMG)
- oral and nasal air flow
- chest and abdominal movements
- loudness of snoring
- oxygen levels in the blood using oxymetry
The test also involves video recording of the entire sleep period. It records any episodes of parasomnias, seizures, sleepwalking or talking, etc. Majority of these symptoms appear during sleep.
People who are more health conscious and aware of some of the common sleep apnea causes, can ask for a test in order to get a medical confirmation regarding their condition and seek immediate medical attention. For example, some common apnea causes include obesity, consumption of excess amounts of alcohol, wrong sleeping posture, or nasal blockage caused by deviated septum.