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How Sleep Specialists Diagnose OSA

What to Expect from a Sleep Evaluation (1:39)

Lawrence Epstein, MD, of Harvard tells what to expect from a visit to a sleep specialist.

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, can be diagnosed in a number of ways.

A sleep specialist will ask how you sleep, and how you feel when awake, and perform a physical exam. You may be asked to complete the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Stanford Sleepiness Scale, and other measures of sleepiness. You also may be asked to have blood and urine tests, and undergo studies to examine the anatomy of your airway.

Additionally, you also may need to undergo a sleep study, usually at a sleep center, but sometimes at home. Sleep studies can show whether you have obstructive sleep apnea, and, if so, how severe it is.

At a sleep center, technicians will attach electrodes to your scalp and elsewhere on your body to monitor brain activity, breathing patterns, and heart rate. They also will measure oxygen levels in your blood. If you undergo a home sleep study, you will wear devices to assess breathing patterns and oxygen levels.