The Epworth sleep questionnaire is designed to measure your propensity towards sleepiness. As a self-rated questionnaire, a lot of people are unwilling or do not recognise sleepiness, so it is often best to fill this in with your partner or family members helping you! Just make sure it’s accurate.
The Berlin questionnaire and the Stop Bang questionnaire are more oriented towards questions which don’t rely so much on your recollection and opinion of your own sleepiness and are often more useful.
Fitness to drive
Sleep disorders often manifest as an inability to maintain adequate wakefulness or alertness during boring or sedentary tasks, such as driving. Untreated sleep disorders therefore increase the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel, near misses, veering onto the side of the road or on to roadside safety corrugations, and of course accidents. Ordinary road users with untreated sleep apnoea are up to five times as likely to have inattention or sleepiness caused car accidents, while truck drivers are up to seven times more likely!
An informative publication by Austroads is the fitness to drive guidelines, which are used by healthcare professionals to guide treatment and help make judgements about a person’s ability and suitability for driving. This information can be accessed through the Austroads website. In general, if patients have a condition which may restrict their ability to drive safely, we have an obligation to discuss their medical condition with their licensing authority. The majority of people are deemed fit to drive, sometimes with various provisions for their licensing. Our physicians help to keep you driving by getting you onto suitable treatments and monitoring your progress.
CPAP treatment is the main treatment option for significant obstructive sleep apnoea. As a medical therapy, sleep physicians are in the best position to judge the requirement for CPAP, determine correct settings, ascertain its effectiveness, and monitor your progress on CPAP treatment.
Modern CPAP treatment is remarkably quiet and – believe it or not – very comfortable! Integrated humidifiers now do a very good job of warming and humidifying the air that you breathe to make it as comfortable as possible.
Our sleep laboratories are the best place to initiate CPAP treatment, review CPAP treatment and troubleshoot, as they are staffed by professional scientists, so the advice that you get is not tainted by commercial pressures. Here you will receive unbiased advice about the appropriate types of masks, nasal pillows, chin straps, machines, settings, brands and alternatives. Our staff will attempt to fit the smallest or slimmest possible masking if appropriate. Larger masks, including full face masks, are sometimes required for patients with nasal blockage.
In general, we recommend that you rent equipment first to get the best idea whether it is suitable for you, and we are happy to advise you about any purchases that you are planning to make.
Many modern CPAP units will record information, but there is no substitute for actual observation in the laboratory whilst on treatment to ensure that all is well. Oxygen, structure of sleep, leg movements and other components of sleep cannot be measured by the recording mechanisms built into CPAP units.
All of this can make understanding CPAP treatment confusing and the Sleep and Respiratory Group will do its best to guide you through the process.