Frequently Asked Questions

My partner snores could they have sleep apnoea?

Snoring is common in the community and most people who snore do not have sleep apnoea, however it can be difficult to differentiate simple snoring from significant sleep apnoea and often a sleep physician assessment and sleep study is required to adequately confirm or exclude sleep apnoea.

Is there an advantage in having a home sleep study over a hospital based sleep study?

Hospital based sleep studies are the gold standard for the evaluation of sleep and cannot be substituted with home based sleep studies in the majority of instances. There is an assumption that home based studies provide a better snapshot of sleep as the patient is sleeping in their own environment however this is unproven. It is rare for one not to sleep during a hospital based sleep study and one's breathing, oxygen levels and minute to minute change in sleep will be no different in a laboratory compared to home. Although there are many patients referred directly to home based sleep studies by their general practitioners, large tertiary hospital sleep centres have countless examples of bad outcomes, incorrect diagnoses and poor treatment choices all resulting from this practice. Guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advise that home based sleep studies should only be performed in those who are highly likely to have significant sleep apnoea and the Medicare benefit schedule item descriptor also highlights this. Home based sleep studies are prone to poor signal quality, signal loss and electrical interference. Up to 20% of these studies are uninterpretable. Home based studies can only be interpreted in the clinical context of the patient presentation and in many instances the results can create more complexity in decision making.

What is CPAP therapy and how does it work?

Continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) consists of a pump, tubing and mask which is worn during sleep and provides a continuous pressure to splint open the upper airway (i.e. throat) thereby treating snoring and sleep apnoea.

I don't want to use CPAP is there any other alternatives?

Most patients diagnosed with sleep apnoea are not very interested in using CPAP yet interestingly the majority of those with severe sleep apnoea end up trialling this device and do very well in the long term. Success rates with CPAP are increasing with newer technologies and strategies during the implementation phase. It is recommended that all patients with severe obstructive sleep apnoea give CPAP a good go. If CPAP fails, second line options may include dental devices, Provent nasal valves or surgical procedures. Treatment for mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnoea is dependent on symptoms and patient preference. Conservative measures including weight loss, smoking cessation, reduction in alcohol intake and positional therapies may be adequate however in some instances patients will prefer to trial CPAP, dental devices or Provent therapy.

I am breathless could it be my lungs?

Shortness of breath is a common presentation to emergency departments and general practitioners and many possible diagnoses should be considered including heart conditions, lung conditions, anaemia (low blood count), obesity or poor fitness/ deconditioning. Often the medical history and physical examination give a clue. Initial investigation for shortness of breath may include a full blood count, chest x-ray, electrocardiograph and lung function (spirometry and gas transfer). If these are normal specialist consultation may be required.

My asthma is well controlled can I stop my preventer?

It is common for patients with asthma to cease their preventer medication when well. This is not advised. Our lung are built tough and have plenty of reserve so often patients cope well with below normal lung function and may not recognise the warning signs of deterioration. Therefore if you are prescribed preventer medication it must be continued until a doctor advises you to cease the medication.

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