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What is a sleep doctor? A sleep doctor diagnoses and treats sleep disorders, and also may have expertise in behavioral and cognitive methods to prevent them.

When to visit

When would you see a sleep doctor? People who are suspected of having sleep apnea are often referred by their doctor to go to a sleep clinic for testing and confirmation.

What to expect

What would you expect during a visit with a sleep doctor? Your first appointment at the sleep clinic will be spent filling out a long questionnaire concerning your health and family with regard to lifestyle and sleep habits. You will then meet with a sleep specialist. You will answer additional questions as your questionnaire is reviewed, then will undergo a physical examination of your nose, mouth and throat. An appointment will be made for an overnight sleep study, the polysomnogram. For the overnight sleep study, you will be taken to a room decorated much like a hotel room to change into night clothing, after which a technician will attach monitors to your head and different parts of your body. The wires connecting you to a computer are lightweight and hardly noticeable. After you are settled into bed, the lights will be shut down and off to sleep you go. During that time a technician will be monitoring your respiratory variables, including oxygen saturation levels caused by air flow from the mouth and nose, brain waves, heart rate, body and eye movements, snore levels, how many times you wake up, time spent in Non REM and REM sleep stages, and positioning of your body during the night. The next morning, you will be gently awakened and disconnected from the wires so you can shower and dress for the day. There will be an appointment set up for you to meet with your admitting sleep doctor after he or she reviews the sleep study. When the sleep specialist assesses your report, it will show how your body is resting at night. If you show decreased oxygen saturation, snoring and a number of apneas, hypopneas and arousals, these can be signs of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

How often to visit

How often should you visit a sleep doctor? For a follow-up study, visiting with a sleep doctor once a year is normal.

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