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When should you take a sleep test?

When should you take a sleep test?

It is important to diagnose your sleep apnea early in order to prevent complications. Depending on your province, your doctor may request that you complete a sleep test in a sleep clinic or at home.

If you think you may have sleep apnea you have several options:

You can take our online sleep apnea quiz. Depending on the results, you can have someone from our VitalAire team contact you to discuss your results and next steps.

You should always discuss any health concerns with your healthcare professional. Only your healthcare professional can prescribe you a sleep study to confirm the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Depending on where you reside in Canada, you may either have a sleep clinic test or home sleep test.

Sleep clinic testing (Polysomnography) - Ontario and Manitoba Residents

Performing your sleep apnea test may be recommended by your doctor if your symptoms are uncertain, and if you have associated chronic conditions.

Home testing- British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan

If your symptoms clearly point to sleep apnea, your doctor may request a home sleep apnea test. You will meet with a qualified healthcare professional who will take your relevant medical history and explain to you what sleep apnea is. You will be given a sleep apnea home test kit and shown how to use it, so you can wear it at home while you sleep.

Your sleep test results results will be stored on a memory card in your machine. When you return the machine the data will be downloaded - to be scored and interpreted, normally by an independent sleep physician. The physician or your primary care practitioner will usually also provide treatment recommendations for you, as needed. The benefits of a home sleep test are that you don't have to wait long for lab space availability and that you are more comfortable sleeping in your own home. With home testing, you will still typically be diagnosed by a sleep specialist.

Sleep studies allow complex disorders to be investigated. Many of these health conditions can cause restless sleep, daytime tiredness, problems with memory or concentration, and serious health risks.

Sleep questionnaires and diaries

Provide useful information for understanding a person's sleep habits and patterns. They serve as a complement, as they alone are not sufficient to confirm or exclude the diagnosis of OSA.



If you think you are suffering from sleep apnea, you should schedule an appointment with your Healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms and possible treatment solutions.  

If your doctor thinks you are at risk for sleep apnea or some other similar disorder, he or she will refer you to a sleep specialist or sleep lab, depending on where in reside in Canada.



Before visiting the sleep specialist, answer the questionnaire "Am I at any risk?". This will help you assess your health status and your risk for sleep apnea.

 Download or print the results and share them with your sleep specialist during your visit. Remember to list all your symptoms.

How to interpret the results your sleep study

After completing your sleep study and receiving the results, you may be curious to understand what this test has to say about your sleep health. However, technical terms and medical language can be a bit confusing, so it's important to understand what they mean in practice.

Check out the  helpful guide below to help you understand the results of your sleep study.

Always schedule an appointment to review the results with your Healthcare Professional, who will then be able to advise on the best course of treatment.

What we call AHI numbers mean?

The AHI counts the average number of what we call respiratory events – such as apneas or hypopneas – that you have each hour.

Apnea is when you are not 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 an 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

The Apnea Hypopnea Index 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 serve sleep apnea. Your score against the Apnea and Hypopnea Index will show you where you are on the severity scale.

Body movement and sleep disruptions

Polysomnography is not just about evaluating apneas and hypopneas – there are other things to look for in a sleep study that could point to a disorder.

For example, RERAs (awakenings associated with respiratory effort due to increased resistance to the passage of air in the airways) are events that affect breathing and sleep quality in ways other than apnea or hypopnea. 

The sleep study can also detect arousals or excessive leg movements. All of these events should be considered in the evaluation to establish a diagnosis and the subsequent course of treatment.

Stages of sleep

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

Sleep apnea can cause awakenings that prevent you from reaching the deepest sleep state (N3), so you wake up feeling tired and keep wanting to nap during the day.

Sleep specialists 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 do you sleep?

Body position can also have an impact on sleep apnea

The 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 can be incompatible with life and 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 being deprived of oxygen. This can lead to brain damage and serious cardiovascular problems. If a PAP (positive airway pressure) device, better known as a CPAP, is prescribed for you by your doctor, the device will provide the airflow you need to breathe normally and get a good night's sleep, as well as normalize your oxygenation. and saturation.


Therapy and treatment

Based on the results of your sleep study, your physician or sleep specialist may recommend another study or the use of associated CPAP therapy for the purpose of performing pressure titration (cmH2O).


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Loud and frequent snoring is one of the indicators of sleep apnea. But not all snorers have sleep apnea. Plus, sleep apnea is more than snoring!
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