What is the first step that I should take to get diagnosed?

After realizing that you have the warning signs for sleep apnea, the journey begins by making an appointment with your physician who will evaluate your symptoms. Depending on your medical plan you will need to either see your primary care physician for a referral or you will be able to go directly to a specialized physician who can better diagnose and treat people who have sleep disorders. Examples of such physicians include lung and nerve specialists and ear, nose, and throat specialists.

One type of physician in particular that you may want to meet with is called the pulmonologist.  A pulmonologist is a physician who possesses specialized knowledge and skill in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions. Although sleep apnea is not a long condition it is a breathing condition and since you breathe through your lungs a pulmonologist should be able to help you with your sleep apnea.

One of the most common approaches that physicians take when diagnosing sleep apnea is based on the following:

  • Medical and family histories
  • A physical exam
  • Sleep study result

Sometimes your sleep troubles aren’t actually the result of a sleep disorder, but just bad sleep habits.

So to help the physician you may want to keep a personal sleep diary for 1 to 2 weeks prior to your appointment and present it to your physician during the consultation. This is because a sleep diary can be a convenient and effective tool in helping your physician to properly diagnose and treat your sleep disorder.

In the diary it’s helpful if you can track the following information:

  • The time you go to sleep
  • The amount of time it took to fall asleep
  • Number of times you awoke during the night
  • The time you wake up
  • How long and well you slept
  • When you were awake during the night
  • If you snore, snorted or stopped breathing during the night (If you are not aware of such symptoms on your own, you can always ask a family member or bed partner to report them to you. You can also record yourself while you sleep.)
  • How alert and rested you feel in the morning
  • Do you have headaches in the morning
  • What/when you ate and drank
  • Number of caffeinated beverages consumed throughout the day
  • Number of alcoholic beverages consumed throughout the day
  • What emotion or stress you had
  • What medications you took during the day and the times
  • Exercise you had during the day and what time
  • How sleepy you feel at various times during the day
  • How often you take naps
  • Time spend exercising
  • Activities performed within an hour of bed
  • What may have disturbed your sleep (breathing troubles, leg movements, insomnia, noise, light etc…)