Screening for Sleep Apnea

Screening is when doctors, healthcare providers, or even you perform a basic assessment of factors that may contribute to your sleep apnea risk. It’s a way of identifying who might have sleep apnea so that people can then be fully tested to determine whether or not they actually have sleep apnea.

The most accurate sleep apnea diagnosis is through a sleep study

The most basic sleep apnea screening tool is the STOP questionnaire, which consists of just four questions:

  • Do you Snore loudly?
  • Do you often feel Tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the daytime.
  • Has anyone Observed you stop breathing in your sleep?
  • Do you have or are you being treated for high blood Pressure?

These four simple questions highlight some of the most commonly seen characteristics of sleep apnea sufferers.

Other sleep apnea screening tools are often used, too, such as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, the Berlin Questionnaire, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. They are not used to diagnose sleep apnea, but to decide who should be tested for sleep apnea.

Sleep Study at a Lab

The definitive sleep study uses what is known as a polysomnogram. Essentially, a polysomnogram is a test that measures many different variables while you sleep. Among the variables tested include brain waves, breathing rate, oxygen levels in the blood, heart rate, and even movements of your eyes and legs to determine how well you are sleeping.

When the test is performed at a sleep lab, you are set up in your own room with the instruments connected to you in as noninvasive a manner as possible. You will be given time to settle in and sleep for a full night, though how much you sleep depends on the state of your sleep apnea.

Sleep Study at Home

A sleep study at home also uses a polysomnogram, but it’s a much simpler version. Your breathing, heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels will be measured. Often total body movements will be measured, but not leg or eye movements.

You will be given instructions on how to use the test. You put it on before bed and wear it all night. Data may be stored on the equipment and will be downloaded to the sleep physician after you return the test, or they may be sent wirelessly.

Your Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

A diagnosis of sleep apnea will include both the type of sleep apnea (central, obstructive, or both) and the severity of sleep apnea. The severity of sleep apnea is based on the number of times you experience apnea (stopping breathing) or hypopnea (reach low oxygen levels) per hour, the apnea-hypopnea-index (AHI).

  • AHI < 5 = no sleep apnea
  • 5≤ AHI < 15 = Mild sleep apnea
  • 15 ≤ AHI < 30 = Moderate sleep apnea
  • 30 ≤ AHI = Severe sleep apnea

You will also be told about your oxygen desaturation. Levels below 90% are considered worrisome, and those below 80% are severe.

If you are looking for a sleep apnea diagnosis from a sleep physician, or if you want to know whether your diagnosis is appropriate for oral appliance therapy, please call (201) 343-4044 or email the River Edge Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry today.