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Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

People who are suspected of having sleep apnea are usually advised to undergo one or more tests aimed at confirming the condition. In most cases, patients are referred for polysomnography, a test usually conducted in a sleep center, but increasingly being offered in the home as well.

During a polysomnography, which is conducted at night so testers can assess your normal sleep patterns, you’ll be hooked up to various electrodes which monitor important body functions during sleep, including the electrical activity of the brain, eye movements, muscle activity, heart rate, respiratory effort, air flow, and oxygen levels in the blood. This test is often provided in the sleep center or set up for home use by a qualified respiratory therapist who has received specialized training in preparing the patient for the test, attaching the electrodes, monitoring the test overnight, and preparing a report that will be sent to a physician specialist, who interprets the results and determines the presence or absence of sleep apnea. Polysomnography is a painless test and is usually covered by insurance.

Another useful test is the multiple sleep latency test, or MSLT. During this test, which is conducted during the daytime, patients are offered several chances to fall asleep. The test measures how quickly sleep occurs. People who are able to nod off during the day in under five minutes are considered at high risk of having a sleep-related disorder.

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