Usually medical practitioners diagnose sleep apnea from medical histories, a physical exam, or a polysomnography (sleep study) results. The generally patient consults the primary-care doctor first who then recommend a sleep specialist based on the available symptoms.
During the medical consultation, the doctor may ask the patient to maintain a diary of regular sleeping hours, recording the common problems noted during sleeping time. A bed partner or another family member can be used to record breathing or snoring habits, observed heart rate, etc. The doctor will also want to know the detailed family history related to sleep apnea. In case of children, the information about sleeping disorders is generally collected from the parent.
During the physical exam, the doctor generally checks the nose, throat, and mouth for the presence of extra tissues. In many cases, the doctor can diagnose sleep apnea through the combined physical exam and medical history. While adults with sleep apnea often have an enlarged tissue at the back of the mouth, the children with sleep apnea usually have enlarged tonsils.
During the PSG test, the patients is put to sleep with sensors attached to different parts of the body such as the scalp, face, chest, limbs, or the finger. The sensors monitor the bodily functions throughout the night. After the test, a sleep specialist reviews the test results to determine if a patients if suffering from sleep apnea. In some cases, the sleep specialist may combine a PSG during the first half of the night with a CPAP test during the second half of the night to accurately diagnose sleep apnea and the extent to which it exists.
Sometimes, a portable monitor is used at home to record the same bodily functions as recorded during the PSG.
Doctors often recommend a portable monitor for the home to test sleep apnea. This equipment is used to record blood oxygen level, nasal airflow, heart rate, and breathing activities.
Peripheral medical equipments required to test sleep apnea conditions are EEG for recording brain activity, EMG to record muscle activities, EOG to capture eye movements, ECG to monitor heart rate, nasal airflow sensor, and snore microphone to record snoring.