Screening tests are short questionnaires which are designed to provide a quick determination of whether a person should proceed forward to obtain a full-scale diagnosis for sleep apnea. Screening tests are useful tools which are meant to filter between those who have any likelihood of having sleep apnea from those who have not. In other words, these tests are not meant to determine conclusively whether a person has sleep apnea, but only to guide individuals toward a more thorough examination. Here are three common screening tests for sleep apnea.
The Epworth Sleepiness Scale
The Epworth Sleeping Scale is a screening test which asks test takers to provide a self-assessment of their level of sleepiness during the daytime. The test consists of eight questions which involve the test takers’ probability of “dozing off” during a variety of commonplace daytime activities. For instance, the test asks takers to determine their chance of dozing off while they are sitting and reading, watching television, sitting and talking to someone and so forth. Test takers respond by assigning a value between 0 and 3 for each question and then either proceed with or decline additional testing depending on their score. The Epworth screening test was developed by Dr. Murray W. Johns of Epworth Hospital in Australia in 1991 and first discussed in the journal Sleep.
The Berlin Questionnaire
The Berlin Questionnaire attempts to determine whether respondents have high risk or low risk of sleep apnea based on their answers to a series of questions. Unlike the Epworth test, the Berlin Questionnaire does not focus solely on daytime sleepiness and includes questions related to snoring and general health. The Berlin Questionnaire has a total of ten questions which are divided into three categories; the questions are multiple choice and respondents are assigned points based on their choice. Respondents are classified as either high risk or low risk if they receive a positive score in two or more individual categories. The Berlin Questionnaire is a very well-established and widely esteemed test and is generally considered a reliable means for determining one’s risk for sleep apnea.
The Stop Bang Questionnaire is another eight question screening test which asks respondents about a variety of things such as daytime sleeping, snoring, age, body mass index and so on. The questions require a simple “yes” or “no” answer and respondents are classified as either high risk or low risk if they answer yes to three or more items. The Stop Bang Questionnaire is a valuable screening test because it touches on a wide assortment of topics – including one’s general health – and is therefore highly reliable in sorting those who have a high risk of sleep apnea from those who have not.
Again, these quick tests are not intended to provide a definitive answer to the question of whether a given individual does in fact have sleep apnea; they are meant to identify the presence of sleep apnea symptoms and recommend further examination based on the results. A full diagnosis can only be obtained through either a home-based or laboratory based sleep test. Any person classified as at risk according to a screening test is advised to seek medical attention and eventually obtain a definitive diagnosis, and we recommend use CPAP machines and CPAP masks if prescribed.