Confirming the Diagnosis and Treating Sleep Apnea

October 29th, 2010

Once you could have been given a tentative diagnosis of sleep apnea or the same sleep/breathing disorder, an all-night sleep test has to be arranged. Proper testing for sleep disorders is critical because several sleep disorders have superficial similarities and can be confused with sleep apnea or be incorrectly diagnosed if testing is not very done properly. An incorrect diagnosis, leading to incorrect treatment, is known as a serious error. As an instance, medications which are often prescribed for narcolepsy or insomnia can actually worsen sleep apnea, so a correct diagnosis is important.

Narcolepsy is a snooze disorder within which people have irresistible “sleep attacks” at inappropriate times, somewhat as in sleep apnea. However, narcolepsy is a special neurologic disorder with its own characteristic symptoms (cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations) not found in sleep apnea.

Insomnia is usually confused with sleep apnea. Insomnia has numerous causes, and only some folks that have insomnia also have sleep apnea.

Two other sleep disorders sometimes occur alone or besides sleep apnea. These are periodic limb movement in sleep (PLMS, also referred to as periodic leg movement disorder, PLMD, or nocturnal myoclonus) and restless leg syndrome (RLS). Again, appropriate testing by an experienced sleep disorders specialist will avoid confusing one sleep disorder with another.

An overnight sleep test will:

1. Confirm whether you truly have sleep apnea or another sort of sleep-disordered breathing
2. Determine the kind of sleep/breathing disorder, which have to be known with a view to select the suitable treatment
3. Rule out other sleep disorders