Sleep Apnea

How can I tell if I have sleep apnea?

A Answers (4)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. To figure out if you have it, determine your “snore score” by answering the following questions. For every “yes” answer, give yourself a point:
    • Do you snore?
    • Do you wake up groggy or with a headache?
    • Do you feel constantly tired or fatigued during the day?
    • Do you fall asleep reading, watching TV, or driving?
    • Do you have problems with memory or concentration?
    If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you’re at risk for sleep apnea and you should see your doctor. In the meantime, be sure to sleep on your side! Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of your throat and block your airway. Taping a tennis ball under your back or placing a pillow between your legs can be helpful way to ensure a safer night’s sleep by ensuring you stay on your side the entire night.
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  • AMark Burhenne, DDS, Dentist, answered

    There are three things I recommend you do to determine whether you have sleep apnea:

    1. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a commonly used form that sleep doctors will ask you to fill out, the results of which will be included on your final sleep test results.  However, I find than many of my patients are in denial about how tired they may be. I ask questions like, "Do you fall asleep in front of the TV at night before bedtime?" Most patients, especially men, want to seem strong, and soften their response. I find it better to ask the spouse or sleep partner the same question. For example, I'll ask a patient, "Do you snore?" and the reply is, "Nah, I'm good." Then I'll ask his or her sleep partner, and the answer is "Oh my god, YES!"

    2. Ask your dentist. Since patients typically see their dentist more often than their primary care physician, it's a more immediate way to find out. Ask your dentist if you grind your teeth (this is also called bruxism) and whether you have a class two bite (retrognathia). If yes to both, then dig deeper and go see your primary care physician for a referral for sleep study.

    3. Download the app (yes, there's an app for everything) Sleep Analyzer (Apple platform only) and follow the instructions. This was recommended to me by a neurologist sleep medicine MD. It will record the sounds you make at night. In the morning when you play back the recording, it plays only the sounds and not the quiet intervals, saving you time. If you have, say, 5 to 15 recording to listen to, you are a sound sleeper with few arousals. If you see 100 to 300 recording for the night, it's time for a more comprehensible study. If you hear snoring and gasping for air on your recordings, it means you may have sleep apnea.

    In any case, given all of these methods for determining whether you have sleep apnea or not, there is no substitute for a proper attended sleep study and a visit to your sleep specialist MD. Remember not to take snoring lightly. Sleep apnea is an insidious disease that affects every major system in your body. About 4% of the population has it, but 90% are undiagnosed and hence untreated. Much of what we read in the media is that we are not sleeping as many hours as we should -- it's time to find out how well we sleep and worry less about how long we sleep.

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  • There are a number of clues that you have sleep apnea. Your partner may complain that you snore heavily or stop breathing in your sleep. You may wake up unrefreshed and fall asleep during the day at inappropriate times. Many people wake with a sore throat and headaches. Other clues include high blood pressure and irritability.

    Sleep apnea is generally diagnosed by a doctor specializing in sleep disorders by use of an overnight, monitored sleep study.
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  • ASteven C. Smart, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of NorthShore University HealthSystem
    You can screen yourself for sleep apnea by the consequences of sleep apnea, including falling asleep when watching television; falling asleep when driving; falling asleep during conversation; chronic fatigue; and heart symptoms of irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, and declining capacity. The other screening symptoms can be restlessness at night, frequent trips to the bathroom at night, restless legs, changing positions, feeling tired when you wake up, weight gain, worsening blood pressure, confusion, and memory loss/cognitive problems.

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