Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders afflicting approximately 20 million adults in the U.S. with an estimated 80% of cases going undiagnosed. Many people may be unaware that a sleep disorder is the underlying cause of their health problems, and others may be aware of their sleep disorder but uninformed of the severe consequences of untreated sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by frequent breaks or pauses in breathing during sleep. There are 3 forms of sleep apnea: Central sleep apnea (CSA) in which the pauses are due to the brain failing to signal the respiratory system to breathe; obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in which breathing is interrupted by a physical blockage in the upper airways, often caused by soft tissues of the throat and tongue collapsing into the airway; and complex/mixed sleep apnea which is a combination of central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.
Do you—or does your primary care physician—have reason to believe that you may have a sleep disorder? You may think that you need to have a polysomnogram (sleep study) in order to verify you have a sleep disorder or sleep problem, and furthermore to determine which one you have and what’s causing it.
If your doctor or sleep medicine specialist has already performed a sleep study and has determined your airway becomes blocked while you're sleeping, they'll likely prescribe you continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Once they decide you require CPAP therapy, they'll likely order a CPAP titration study.
Sleep disorders are common and not only do they disrupt your sleep, they can truly impact your quality of life. They can also affect your partner’s sleep as well. To receive an official sleep disorder diagnosis, your primary care physician will likely refer you to a sleep professional for an in-laboratory sleep study test known as polysomnography.