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The first step is alway the hardest to take. Understanding the what, why and how of a process is important. When sleep is a concern, what are the problems or sleep disorders you may be suffering from.  Why should you be concerned and how can you go about finding more about your problem.   Let’s start with some basic information.

Sleep Problems (Sleep Apnea and the others)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are many sleep disorders, problems that may cause poor, un-refreshing sleep.  One disorder, OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA, is the most common sleep problem. It occurs in 27% of all adults.  The older you are the more likely you are to have it. It causes sleep symptoms that can be mild to debilitating.  Most importantly, significant obstructive sleep apnea causes many chronic debilitating illnesses that can lead to an early death.

It occurs in 27% of all adults.’

Most of the disorders of sleep recognized by medical specialist can and may be debilitating, but only apnea clearly leads to an early death in many who suffer from it.  Remember, it occurs in 1 in 4 adults!

‘apnea clearly leads to an early death’

The number of patients seen with apnea over whelms sleep physicians and the medical system.  Because it is so common, almost all patients with sleep symptoms need to have apnea excluded as a potential problem.  It is not the only disorder of sleep.  But, it often occurs when other sleep problems are present.  When sleep symptoms are present and obstructive apnea is diagnosed, the obstructive apnea is almost always treated first because of the potential serious long-term consequences.   If a secondary issue is causing the symptoms, they will persist after the apnea is treated.

Common Non-Apnea Sleep Disorders

There are many people who suffer from sleep disorders and do not have apnea.  Unfortunately, there are many people who have both obstructive apnea and another sleep disorder.  Insomnia, excessive sleepiness and unusual movements during the night are common problems. Because they are common and obstructive apnea is common, both issues can be seen in the same person.  They can be sometimes caused or worsened by obstructive apnea and resolve on treatment for apnea, and other times, they will persist after the apnea is treated.

‘both issues can be seen in the same person’

For the most part, non-apnea sleep disorders have not been shown to have long-term health effects except in more serious cases. It is common for the emphasis in an initial sleep evaluation to be on diagnosing or excluding the present of obstructive apnea as a cause for sleep related symptoms.    While non-apnea sleep disorder can make your life miserable, they usually do not lead to chronic illness or early death.

Symptoms direct the sleep physician as to how to proceed.  Unfortunately, obstructive apnea can produce a wide variety of symptoms that mimic many other sleep disorders.

How Should You Proceed

When physicians evaluate a patient for sleep problems, a sleep test is frequently the first step.

Do you think you need an evaluation by a sleep specialist or sleep testing?

Do you or a loved one experience poor sleep, problems going to sleep, problems staying awake, movements during sleep or other sleep related issues? Is the problem significant? What can be done?

If you have questions about sleep you can:

Take our Sleep Quizzes for your own self-evaluation.  Certain answers can give you an estimate of your risk for apnea or another disorder of sleep. While some symptoms strongly suggest apnea is a problem, many individuals with serious apnea, apnea frequently enough to cause illness and death, have mild or even no symptoms.

Learn about sleep disorders.

Read our Sleep Apnea Information sheets.
Review our FAQs section.
Visit our Links page for additional resources.

Make an appointment for a sleep assessment with your physician. Our quizzes will provide you with a risk assessment for sleep disorders.

Discuss your questions with your current physician or make an appointment with a sleep physician.

Sleep Testing

Do you need a sleep test?  Having symptoms related to your ability to sleep well often means a sleep test is needed to evaluate the quality of your sleep.  Many sleep physicians would recommend a sleep test after certain ages for anyone with sleep symptoms because of high frequency of apnea in older individuals.  Your physician will need to assist you with that decision.

Many people suffer from poor sleep for a variety of reasons not related to apnea.  A person may have sleep symptoms, be found to have apnea, be treated for apnea, and yet have no improvement in their symptoms.  A second sleep disorder may be present.

If your physician has asked you to have a sleep test, then review:

Review our What to Expect information.
Read How to Select a Sleep Center.

Payment Issues

Sleep medicine is one of the last medical fields to become an organized recognized medical specialty.  As a result, the field is tightly directed and regulated by insurance companies and government agencies.  Remember every policy is different and often will have specific rules for the testing covered and the treatments it covers.  While a policy may cover “sleep apnea or sleep disorders”, the coverage may have significant limitations and specific requirements for that coverage.

Apnea, the most common disorder and the disorder that can lead to many expensive medical complications, is the focus of coverage under most medical insurance policies.

It is always best to ask and check your policy coverage before you proceed with an evaluation and testing.

Some times better care and service can be obtained by purchasing the service for a cash price.  Surprisingly, the cash cost of a sleep evaluation and testing can be reasonable from some providers.  Our affiliated self-help service (look for it in 2023) is one approach to a more reasonable cost experience.

Important to Note

You should recognize that many people with only apnea can be diagnosis and treated quite simply and economically.  However, professional care is needed to make the appropriate diagnosis and treatment in most.  If a self-directed approach does not improve or resolve your problem, then professional help is required.

Last updated: 6/2022

Checking up on your sleep may lead to a longer, healthier life.