Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you suspect that you have obstructive sleep apnea, you'll likely first see your family doctor or a primary care doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist.

It's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment requests. When you make your appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as keeping a sleep diary. In a sleep diary, you record your sleep patterns — bedtime, number of hours slept, nighttime awakenings and awake time — as well as your daily routine, naps and how you feel during the day. You may be asked to record a sleep diary for one to two weeks.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including new or ongoing health problems, major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Bring a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking. Include anything you've taken to help you sleep.
  • Take your bed partner along, if possible. Your doctor may want to talk to your partner to learn more about how much and how well you're sleeping.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor. Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your doctor.

For obstructive sleep apnea, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What is likely causing my symptoms?
  • Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • Should I go to a sleep clinic?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.

What to expect from your doctor

A key part of the evaluation of obstructive sleep apnea is a detailed history, meaning your doctor will ask you many questions. These may include:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • Do you snore? If so, does your snoring disrupt anyone else's sleep?
  • How often do you snore? Do you snore in all sleep positions or just when sleeping on your back?
  • Do you ever snore, snort, gasp or choke yourself awake?
  • Has anyone ever seen you stop breathing during sleep?
  • How refreshed do you feel when you wake up?
  • Do you experience headache or dry mouth upon awakening?
  • Are you tired during the day?
  • Do you doze off or have trouble staying awake while sitting quietly or driving?
  • Do you nap during the day?
  • Do you use tobacco or drink alcohol?
  • Do you worry about falling asleep or staying asleep?
  • Do you have any family members with sleep problems?
  • What medications do you take?

What you can do in the meantime

  • Try to sleep on your side. Most forms of obstructive sleep apnea are milder when you sleep on your side.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol worsens obstructive sleep apnea.
  • If you're drowsy, avoid driving. If you have obstructive sleep apnea you may be abnormally sleepy, which can put you at higher risk of motor vehicle accidents. To be safe, schedule rest breaks. At times, a close friend or family member might tell you that you appear sleepier than you feel. If this is true, try to avoid driving.
Jun. 15, 2013