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Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

Early diagnosis of sleep apnea can prevent complications and other health risks. 

Three easy ways to assess your risk

  • 1
    Ask your partner or a family member if they have noticed you snore or pause your breathing during sleep.

  • 2
    Speak with a VitalAire team member to learn more about the steps to book a sleep apnea test.

  • 3
    Record yourself sleeping, or have a family member do so. Use an APP such as: SnoreLab or SnoreAPP.

Sleep Apnea Testing 

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, schedule a visit with your medical professional. Depending on where you reside in Canada, the diagnosis of sleep apnea can be made either through a sleep study, at a sleep clinic, or at home using special equipment.


Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT)

HSAT tests are provided by a qualified healthcare professional. With an HSAT, you will wear a special device overnight that will monitor and track your sleep patterns. The device will securely store your data which will be reviewed and interpreted by a sleep medical professional.

Home Sleep Apnea Tests are most commonly prescribed in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Saskatchewan.

Polysomnography (PSG) Overnight Sleep Study

A PSG is an overnight laboratory-based sleep study completed by a qualified sleep technician.  The study monitors and evaluates abnormalities of your sleep and/or wakefulness and other physiologic disorders that may have an impact on your sleep quality.

Polysomnography (PSG) is most commonly prescribed in Ontario and Manitoba.

How to Interpret the Results of the Sleep Study

After receiving your test results, you may be curious to understand what the test has to say about your sleep health. However, technical terms and medical language can be a bit confusing. Use the guide below to help you understand your results.

For detailed questions and/or concerns about your treatment, you should speak directly with your medical professional or one of our healthcare team members. 

What do AHI numbers mean?

The Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) measures the severity of sleep apnea: less than 5 events per hour (or an AHI below 5) is considered normal sleep, whereas an AHI greater than 30 per hour suggests you have severe sleep apnea. 

An apnea occurs when you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more and also have a drop in peripheral oxygen saturation or a drop in blood oxygen. Hypopnea is a partial loss of breath for 10 seconds or more and is as severe as apnea (also has a drop in blood oxygen).

AHI Classification
<5  Normal (No Sleep Apnea)
 5 -15 Light sleep apnea
 15 - 30 Moderate sleep apnea
> 30 Severe Sleep Apnea


Stages of sleep

Each sleep cycle contains four stages – known as N1, N2, N3 and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep – you move through these stages multiple times during a typical night. 

Sleep apnea can cause awakenings that prevent you from reaching the deepest sleep state (N3), you will likely wake up feeling tired and want to nap throughout the day. 

Depending on where you reside, a Sleep specialist will be able to detect whether the stages of your sleep are disrupted by analyzing the data provided by monitoring your brain waves via electrocardiogram, which is part of the polysomnography exam.

How you sleep?

Body position can also have an impact on sleep apnea. 

Your sleep study will show how long you sleep on your stomach (supine position), on your back, and on each side of your body, right or left, (right and left lateral recumbency). 

Oxygen saturation (SaO2)

When your breathing pauses during sleep, it means you are not getting all the oxygen you need in your bloodstream. The percentage of your body's ability to inhale and absorb oxygen into your bloodstream is measured by your oxygen saturation (SaO2).

In cases of severe sleep apnea, the oxygen level can drop very low – in severe cases, it can reach 60% or less during sleep. This means that just over half of the oxygen you need to function is being absorbed.

If the saturation drops below 92%, your body and brain are deprived of oxygen. This can lead to brain damage and serious cardiovascular problems.


Based on the results of your sleep study, your medical professional or sleep specialist may recommend another study or the use of associated CPAP treatment for the purpose of performing pressure titration (cmH2O). Titration may be recommended to ensure the proper airway pressure is set for your needs. 


1. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, British Lung Foundation, 2014
2. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea- information prescription,

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