Preparing for your appointment

If you suspect that you have obstructive sleep apnea, you'll likely first see your primary care doctor. However, 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.
  • 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. If you can't bring your partner with you, ask him or her about how well you sleep, and whether or not you snore.
  • 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's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or long lasting?
  • What kinds of tests do I need? Do I need to go to a sleep clinic?
  • What treatments are available and which do you recommend for me?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?

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

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 first notice symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been off and on, or do you always have them?
  • Do you snore? If so, does your snoring disrupt anyone else's sleep?
  • 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? Are you tired during the day?
  • Do you experience headache or dry mouth upon awakening?
  • Do you doze off or have trouble staying awake while sitting quietly or driving?
  • Do you nap during the day?
  • Do you have any family members with sleep problems?

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.
June 15, 2016
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