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Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

For an accurate sleep apnea diagnosis to be made, a sleep recording test may be needed. This test records a variety of body functions while you sleep, including what happens with your breathing. The results of the sleep recording test, as well as a medical history and physical exam, can help your healthcare provider make a sleep apnea diagnosis.

An Overview of Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

Some of the methods doctors use to make a sleep apnea diagnosis include:
  • Taking a medical history that includes asking you and your family questions about how you sleep and how you function during the day
  • Checking your mouth, nose, and throat for extra or large tissues, such as the:
    • Tonsils
    • Uvula (the tissue that hangs from the middle of the back of the mouth)
    • Soft palate (the roof of your mouth in the back of your throat)


  • Recording a variety of body functions and noting what happens with your breathing during sleep.

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and the Sleep Recording Test

As part of making a sleep apnea diagnosis, a sleep recording test may be performed. A sleep recording is a test that is often done in a sleep center or sleep laboratory, which may be part of a hospital. You may stay overnight in the sleep center, although sleep studies are sometimes done in the home. The most common sleep recording used to find out if you have sleep apnea is called a polysomnogram (poly-SOM-no-gram), or PSG. This test records:
  • Brain activity
  • Eye movement
  • Muscle activity
  • Breathing and heart rate
  • How much air moves in and out of your lungs while you are sleeping
  • The percent of oxygen in your blood.
A PSG is painless. You will go to sleep as usual. The staff at the sleep center will monitor your sleep throughout the night. A sleep medicine specialist will analyze the results of your PSG to see if you have sleep apnea, how severe it is, and what treatment may be recommended.
In certain circumstances, the PSG can be done at home. A home monitor can be used to record heart rate, how air moves in and out of your lungs, the amount of oxygen in your blood, and your breathing effort. For this test, a technician will come to your home and help you apply the monitor you will wear overnight. You will go to sleep as usual, and the technician will come back the next morning to get the monitor and send the results to your doctor.

Sleep Apnea Information

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