The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are not very specific. This means that most people who snore at night or who feel tired during the day probably do not have sleep apnea. Other medical reasons for daytime sleepiness should be considered by your doctor before referral to a sleep center for diagnostic sleep tests. They include:
- Having to work excessive hours or varying shifts (nights, weekends)
- Medications (tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antihistamines beta blockers, many others)
- Alcohol abuse
- Medical conditions (such as hypothyroidism, hypercalcemia, and hyponatremia/hypernatremia)
- Self-imposed short sleep time
- Other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, or restless legs syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Depression or dysthymia
Symptoms or findings that make the need for evaluation by a sleep specialist include:
- Sleepiness is affecting patient's quality of life
- Sleepiness on-the-job places the patient or others in danger
- Others have observed apnea or breath-holding episodes while asleep
- Other medical illnesses that may be worsened by obstructive sleep apnea are present.
- Children who are snoring a lot and are irritable, not thriving or growing well, or having behavioral issues
If symptoms suggest obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep disorders, further diagnostic testing will be performed. A sleep specialist or sleep disorders center will perform an in-depth medical and sleep history and physical exam. Centers should be accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Medical and Sleep History
To help determine the presence of sleep apnea, the doctor will ask the following questions:
Review Date: 06/11/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.