Sleep Disorders - Diagnosis & Treatment

How are sleep disorders diagnosed?

Your doctor will first perform a physical examination and ask about your symptoms, lifestyle and medical history.

You may also be asked to undergo various studies to track your brainwave activity and body functions during sleep:

  • Polysomnogram (PSG). This test involves staying overnight in a sleep laboratory or at your home. You will be hooked up to a special machine that records your brain waves, blood oxygen levels, breathing, heart rate, and eye and limb movements. Polysomnograms are usually recommended in cases of sleep apnoea and parasomnias.
  • Multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). Also known as the daytime nap test, a MSLT is similar to a polysomnogram, but comprises four 20-minute naps taken at 2-hour intervals throughout the day. It is usually recommended in cases of narcolepsy and to evaluate the extent of daytime sleepiness.
  • Maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT). A MWT measures how alert you are during daytime by measuring your ability to stay awake for specified durations. It is usually combined with a MSLT for cases of narcolepsy and hypersomnia.

Other follow-up tests, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, blood tests, and electroencephalograms, may also be recommended based on the results of your sleep studies.

How are sleep disorders treated?

Most sleep disorders can be managed conservatively with a combination of good sleep hygiene, lifestyle modifications, and prescribed medications.

Your doctor will advise you on a suitable treatment plan, taking into account the severity of your sleep problems, your health condition as well as your lifestyle needs.

In advanced cases of certain sleep disorders, surgical treatment may be necessary to correct the root problem. For example, if you have obstructive sleep apnoea, your treatment plan may also involve:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves fitting a mask attached to a machine over your face to help keep your airway open while you sleep
  • Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA) surgery, which realigns the jaws to expand the airway
  • Weight loss surgery, if necessary
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