Do you feel drowsy during the day? Snore at night? Feel tired after a “good” night’s sleep? If so, you might have obstructive sleep apnea.

What is obstructive sleep apnea? 

In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your breathing stops or gets very shallow as you sleep. These interruptions can happen many times each hour. They can last for a few seconds to a minute each time.

OSA is common. More than 12 million adults in the U.S. have OSA. It can occur at any age, but becomes more common in middle age. It's more common for men than women. 

What are the symptoms? 

The most common symptoms of OSA are loud snoring and daytime tiredness, but not everyone with OSA has these symptoms. Often a person’s bed partner first notices that there might be a problem, based on hearing the person snore or even stop breathing during sleep.

How does the doctor test for OSA? 

Your doctor will review your health history and symptoms. If needed, you may have one of the following: 

  • Meeting with a sleep specialist, a doctor with advanced training in sleep problems. 
  • Home oximetry. This test uses a small device to monitor the oxygen in your blood while you sleep. If your blood oxygen repeatedly dips below a certain level, you might have OSA. Based on the results, your doctor may recommend more testing. 
  • Sleep center test. This test is the best way to diagnose OSA. You stay in a sleep center overnight. Electrodes (sticky patches) and other sensors record information while you sleep.
    The test has two purposes:
    • Diagnosing OSA. The test confirms whether you have OSA and shows how serious the problem is.
    • Finding the best settings for treatment. If you have OSA, the best treatment is CPAP. In the sleep center, the technician finds the best CPAP settings for you.
  • Portable home sleep studies. Some patients may be able to use a portable monitor to perform a sleep study at home.

Are you at risk for OSA?

Check any items that apply to you:

  • Snoring? Do you snore louder than talking or loud enough to be heard through closed doors? 
  • Tired? Do you feel tired during the day, even after a “good” night’s sleep? 
  • Observed breathing interruption while sleeping? Has anyone ever seen you stop breathing while you’re sleeping? 
  • Pressure — high blood pressure? Do you have high blood pressure, or are you being treated for it? 
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) over 35? Do you weigh more than you should for your height? Ask your provider about your Body Mass Index. 
  • Age — over 50? Your risk for OSA increases as you get older. 
  • Neck size — large? If you're a woman, does your neck measure more than 16 inches around? If you're a man, does it measure more than 17 inches around? 
  • Gender — male? OSA is more common in men than in women. 
  • TOTAL: If you checked one or two boxes, you may be at risk. If you checked three boxes, your risk is high. Talk with your doctor about your risk for OSA.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.