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
Jul. 24, 2012
- 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.
- Ropper AH, et al. Adams & Victor's Principles of Neurology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3633173. Accessed May 1, 2012.
- What is sleep apnea? National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sleep_apnea/sleep_apnea.htm. Accessed April 27, 2012.
- What is sleep apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea/. Accessed April 27, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=9129170. Accessed May 1, 2012.
- Javaheri S. Central sleep apnea. Clinics in Chest Medicine. 2010;31:235.
- Badr MS. Central sleep apnea syndrome: Risk factors, clinical presentation, and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 1, 2012.
- Yaggi HK, et al. Adult obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome: Definitions, risk factors, and pathogenesis. Clinics in Chest Medicine. 2010;31:179.
- Strohl KP. Overview of obstructive sleep apnea in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 1, 2012.
- Tamisier R, et al. Cardiovascular effects of obstructive sleep apnea. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 1, 2012.
- Sunwoo B, et al. Ambulatory management of patients with sleep apnea: Is there a place for portable monitor testing?
- Kryger MH. Management of obstructive sleep apnea in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 1, 2012.
- Berry RB, et al. A novel nasal expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) device for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea: A randomized controlled trial. Sleep. 2011;34:479.
- Provent therapy frequently asked questions. Ventus Medical. http://www.proventtherapy.com/provent-therapy-faq.php. Accessed May 2, 2012.
- Kushida CA, et al. Practice parameters for the treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliances: An update for 2005. Sleep. 2006;29:240.
- Aurora RN, et al. Practice parameters for the surgical modifications of the upper airway for obstructive sleep apnea in adults. Sleep. 2010;33:1408.
- Badr MS. Central sleep apnea syndrome: Treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 1, 2012.
- 17. Randerath WJ, et al. Non-CPAP therapies in obstructive sleep apnoea. European Respiratory Journal. 2011;37:1000.
- Freire AO, et al. Treatment of moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome with acupuncture: A randomised, placebo-controlled pilot trial. Sleep Medicine. 2007;8:43.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.