Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you or your partner suspects that you have sleep apnea, you'll probably first see your primary care doctor. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a sleep specialist.

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, 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 restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as modify your diet or keep a sleep diary.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Ask a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you may remember information that you missed or forgot. And, because your bed partner may be more aware of your symptoms than you are, it may help to have him or her along.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your visit. For sleep apnea, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or long lasting?
  • What treatments are available?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • Which treatment do you think would be best for me?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine or product you're prescribing me?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • How does your partner describe your symptoms?
  • Do you know if you stop breathing during sleep? If so, how many times a night?
  • Is there anything that has helped your symptoms?
  • Does anything worsen your symptoms, such as sleep position or alcohol consumption?

What you can do in the meantime

  • Try to sleep on your side. Most forms of sleep apnea are milder when you sleep on your side.
  • Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol worsens obstructive and complex sleep apnea.
  • Avoid sedative medications. Drugs that relax you or make you sleepy can also worsen sleep apnea.
  • If you're drowsy, avoid driving. If you have sleep apnea you may be abnormally sleepy, which can put you at higher risk of motor vehicle accidents. 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 at all.
Jul. 24, 2012