Do I have sleep apnea?


Does your breathing sometimes pause at night? Do you snore heavily? Do you suffer from abnormal drowsiness during the day? Do you feel tired and stressed? Have you been medically tested for apnea?

More and more people are suffering from apnea without being aware of it. Apnea is disturbed breathing during sleep which in half the number of cases presents itself when supine. Your tongue relaxes and when supine falls backwards easier, blocking the airway. This may prevent you from breathing for a short period of time, which causes you to unconsciously wake in shock and fall asleep again.

Sleep apnea in medical terms occurs when your breathing pauses for a minimum of 5 times per hour for a minimum of 10 seconds per pause. Despite the disturbances in breathing often being subconscious, patients find they suffer as a result during the day. Current thinking is that 2 to 4% of the Western population suffers from sleep apnea. The majority of these individuals however don’t know that they have apnea.

Over 2 to 4% of the Western population suffers from sleep apnea, of which the majority is unaware of their condition.

Apnea patients suffer from one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Heavy snoring
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Waking in shock with a choking feeling
  • Increased sweating during sleep
  • Dry mouth and/or sore throat on waking
  • Morning headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Heavy feeling on the chest
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Lack of concentration
  • The tendency to fall asleep during the day as soon as you relax

If you recognize several of these symptoms in yourself, we advise you to seek medical testing. The official diagnosis of sleep apnea syndrome can only be given by a medical specialist. Your general practitioner can refer you to a specialist hospital or sleep center. In these locations various specialists can determine if you have apnea and to what degree. Normally this includes ENT specialists (Ear, Nose and Throat specialists), pulmonologists and/or neurologists. They often work in teams for this purpose.

To find out if you have apnea they ask you to sleep with specialist equipment to take various measurements during your sleep. The measurement is called a polysomnography (Sleep study). Whether you can take the equipment home or need to stay the night in the hospital depends on the center you visit. To find a testing center in your area we advise you to speak with your general practitioner.

Test yourself

Using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) you can conduct a self analysis of how sleepy you are during the day. The results of this analysis can indicate whether or not further tests need to be conducted into an underlying sleep disorder which may be affecting you. Click here to do the test.