Why Choose an At-Home Sleep Study?
Is breathing trouble interrupting your sleep? Do your friends and family report that you snore? Have peers recommended you get evaluated for sleeping disorders, but you don’t know where to start?
If this sounds like you, then an at home sleep study is the perfect tool to help give you insight into your sleep health. If you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a home sleep study can diagnose it or help you discover if you need to pursue other sleep therapy options before committing to a full sleep study in a lab.
For those who would like to find out quickly if obstructive sleep apnea is the cause of their interrupted sleep and aren’t aware of any other sleep disorder or underlying breathing conditions, a home sleep apnea test (HSAT) is a reliable, accurate option. At home sleep studies can record essential data such as:
- Breathing Effort
- Oxygen Levels
- Pauses in Breathing
- Depth of Respiration
This data can quickly show whether or not you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and if it is obstructing your airway and disrupting your sleep.
Before you decide whether or not to go with this option, you should know exactly what sleep apnea is, how it affects your sleep, and how this study can offer an alternative to expensive overnight tests at hospitals or other institutions.
In this article, we’ll cover the following topics regarding home sleep testing to help you make the best decision for your needs:
- Differences Between at Home Sleep Studies and Traditional Polysomnograms
- The Information at Home Sleep Studies Provide
- Cost of at Home Sleep Studies
- How Is a Sleep Study Done at Home?
- What Equipment Is Used for a Home Sleep Study?
- The Pros and Cons of at Home Sleep Studies
- The Best at Home Sleep Studies for You To Use
- Can You Do a Sleep Apnea Test at Home?
What Is An At-Home Sleep Study?
An at-home sleep study is conducted from home and can be used to diagnose moderate to sever sleep apnea in those who are at risk.
Traditionally, if you suspected that something was wrong with your sleep, you’d talk to your doctor and get prescribed a night of polysomnography.
This option, commonly called a sleep study, can often be inconvenient, quite expensive, and even somewhat unnecessary for those seeking a diagnosis for the cause of sleep disruption. In fact, many insurance companies now require a home sleep test before considering polysomnography because of both the prevalence of OSA and lower incidences of more potentially complicated sleep disorders like Narcolepsy or REM Sleep Behavior Disorder.
Such studies require patients to stay overnight in a hospital or sleep lab while specialized medical equipment and experts record data. Lab sleep studies record brain wave data, blood oxygen saturation, and other such data to precisely determine the cause of poor sleep.
While polysomnography does appraise breathing data, it’s not necessarily the most cost-effective route of determining the source of sleep-disordered breathing for those without any other known risk factors or underlying sleep disorders.
A home sleep study is a compact device that can be used in the comfort of your own home to determining whether or not you’re experiencing OSA. While it isn’t as capable as a traditional lab sleep study in diagnosing a range of conditions, many people with OSA now have a much cheaper and easier path to treating their condition.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Should you get an At Home Sleep Study?
Sleep brings the body into a relaxed state. As throat muscles relax, interruptions in the upper airway can result, especially for those who still have their tonsils or excessive tissue in the soft palate at the upper back of the mouth.
When that restriction combines with muscles at rest, the upper airway sporadically collapses, causing snoring and trouble breathing while sleeping.
Sleep apnea patients often snore loudly, the sound of which comes from restricted airways. When the airway collapses, the brain alerts the nervous system to the problem and wakes the person so that the airways can open again.
While this may simply sound irritating, and causes a lack of sleep that translates into irritability, you should not ignore it if it is happening to you. OSA can go beyond sleepiness in the daytime, also known as hypersomnia, and having trouble remaining asleep, known as insomnia.
OSA can cause high blood pressure, increase the risk of diabetes, lead to liver problems, and disrupt partners’ and relatives’ own ability to sleep. OSA can also increase the risk of both heart attack and stroke, so ignoring sleep apnea can be life-threatening in many cases.
Thus, if you are finding yourself suddenly awakening in the middle of the night while your partner reports that your snoring is disruptive to their sleep, an at home sleep study may serve you well.
If you are suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, in-home sleep apnea testing can diagnose the problem and set you on a path for treating and alleviating the condition. If you are suffering from something else, it can rule out OSA from the comfort of your home and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional sleep study.
How Does a Home Sleep Study Work?
At-home sleep study equipment varies from test to test. Some tests are extremely minimalist and may only include one or two of these while others may include most or all of the following:
- A Mask With Nostril Tubes
- Chest Sensors
- Abdomen Sensors
- Finger Probe (Pulse Oximeter)
- Data Device
At-home sleep studies can measure breathing, oxygen levels in the blood, how much effort it takes to breathe, and the depth of the breath while asleep by using a combination of the equipment described above and relaying the information to adevice that collects and transmits or records the data.
Typically, you’ll order a home sleep test and receive a consultation with a medical professional up front to determine if you’re a good candidate for home sleep testing. If you are, they’ll ship your device.
Sleeping in your own bed in a familiar environment creates a more authentic sleep cycle than a polysomnogram and can help your healthcare provider make a more accurate diagnosis. One night (eight or so hours) is typically enough to gather sufficient data, though some HSATs require 2-3 nights of this for more complete data.
After completing your test, you’ll then return the equipment and data device to the provider, who will interpret the information and make a diagnosis. Some HSATs are even disposable and transmit the data, allowing you to simply throw it away at the end of the process.
How to Get An At-Home Sleep Study
Though they are more convenient than polysomnograms, at home sleep studies are still not commercially available. Home sleep studies are only available from doctors, medical providers, and sleep specialists, and you will need a prescription for one to take part. If you think you may need a home sleep study, talking to your doctor is one good place to start, but many HST programs also include an upfront video consultation that includes a subscription for your home sleep test.
That said, if you’ve been seeing your doctor for a while and they’re familiar with your health history, they may even be able to recommend a more suitable alternative for you before you commit to at-home sleep testing.
Sometimes symptoms associated with sleep disorders actually may be secondary problems, and your doctor may spot the primary problem, eliminating your need to do any further sleep testing. If your doctor thinks you may be suffering from OSA or another sleep disorder, however, they will direct you to a sleep specialist who may in turn recommend a lab sleep study for diagnosis.
Costs of an At Home Sleep Study vs. Polysomnography
Though insurance often covers most of the costs of polysomnography, it can still become a costly procedure for those who do not suffer from rarer sleep disorders. Without insurance, a lab sleep study can cost up to $3,000 dollars or even more, and with insurance can still cost about $500 to $900 dollars.
While costs should be no object when it comes to your health, these high potential costs are why consultation with both a doctor and a sleep specialist is crucial to determining what type of study is right for you.
Home sleep studies, on the other hand, are significantly cheaper whether you use insurance or not. Most at-home sleep studies start around $150 while more in-depth versions can cost up to $500. Most insurance companies, however, can cover most of this cost, with some commonly asking the recipient to cover 1/5 of the tests’ costs or their standard copay or deductible.
So, for those whose doctors approve of it, an at-home sleep study is an affordable alternative to polysomnography, with costs being either affordably and reasonably low or covered by insurance.
How Accurate Are At-Home Sleep Studies?
Home sleep studies are not accurate 100% of the time but can accurately diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea and lead patients to treatment paths that spare them further complications or sleeping problems.
In a 2018 study, a team of doctors found that home sleep studies were 92% accurate among their data group. Some stroke patients who underwent in-hospital rehabilitation experienced sleep problems, and doctors used at-home sleep testing to determine whether or not 265 patients were suffering from OSA.
At home sleep studies accurately detected OSA in 244 patients, helping them further with their rehabilitation after a stroke and helped them to avoid further risks for stroke (due to sleeping disorder) by getting them on a path to treating their OSA with a CPAP machine.
The study determined that not only were at home sleep studies a feasible testing method for sleep apnea in stroke patients, but they are also a feasible means of diagnosing this sleep disorder for the general population. Thus, the general population can place significant trust in home sleep testing to precisely diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea and thereby open up a path to treatment.
For those suffering from other sleeping disorders, at home sleep studies can rule out OSA as the cause of sleep disruption, as they did in this study. The doctors also found that one patient suffered from Central Sleep Apnea; not because the home sleep test diagnosed it, but because the testing equipment’s inconclusivity led to more investigation and an accurate diagnosis.
Other sleep disorder patients can rely similarly on the home test’s accuracy so that it can eliminate Obstructive Sleep Apnea from the list of potential causes for their sleep disruption, and ideally lead them to a true diagnosis.
The Pros of At Home Sleep Studies
There are several benefits to at home sleep studies which, at a glance, include:
Convenience And Comfort
The convenient advantage of at-home sleep studies is included in their name. Home sleep studies do not require you to sleep in a testing facility hooked up to several pieces of equipment and machines. Instead, you can stay in and enjoy the comfort of your home, and set up minimal equipment before sleeping in your own bed.
The process saves a significant amount of time, as you can wake up in your own house and go about your routine once again without having to make any intermediary stops. It also leads to a more realistic evaluation of your typical night of sleep compared to how you’d sleep while staying in a testing facility overnight.
At home sleep studies also make medical evaluation more available to several demographics such as the elderly, handicapped, or others who are less able to leave the house.
As mentioned before, polysomnograpy can cost thousands of dollars and is unnecessary if you do not demonstrate symptoms that indicate a neurological sleep disorder. With an at home sleep study, you can find out if OSA is taking the sleep out of you at a fraction of the cost of an overnight stay at a testing facility.
To save even more money, get clear with your insurance provider to find out specifically what your insurance is willing or able to cover.
Doctors trust home sleep studies to diagnose OSA, as they are just as accurate as testing center equipment in detecting this disorder. Therefore, if your test detects this sleeping disorder in your sleeping patterns, the test will validate your concerns and set you on the right path to better sleep and a happier, healthier life.
The Cons of At-Home Sleep Studies
As with anything, there are problems with home sleep studies, which can include:
- Limited scope
- Lack of monitoring
Home sleep tests are fantastic for OSA, but only for OSA. What does a home sleep study show? This is only related to breathing and the quality of breathing in sleep. They don’t measure neurological activity and thus cannot tell medical professionals if you are suffering from sleep problems beyond those caused by a physical obstruction of the airway.
Lack Of Monitoring
Lab technicians who monitor sleep tests can reattach equipment that has come loose or fallen off of you during the study, but for at home tests, this is not possible. Thus, there is room for inaccuracy because no one can make sure the equipment stays in place while you sleep, and this may cause a need to repeat the test the following night due to insufficient data.
Home sleep tests are a great option for those whose sleep may be suffering at the hands of OSA. If your family reports that you snore, or it appears you have trouble breathing while you sleep, you may be suffering from this disorder, and it may be the cause of your interrupted rest.
Not only can at-home sleep tests do this within the walls and coziness of your own home, but they can do so at a tiny fraction of the cost of traditional polysomnography.
If you think OSA is disrupting your sleep, or if you are not sure but would like to eliminate it from the list of potential problems without paying thousands of dollars, you should talk to your doctor and/or a sleep specialist. They will either find out the problem quickly or direct you to all options available and find the most comfortable for you.
One of the best tests that we found is SleepMedRx. We prefer it for its size and comfort and at just $175 including an initial consultation with a prescription for your sleep test included, it’s a great deal even if your insurance isn’t willing to help with the bill.
If an at home sleep study sounds like an option for you, talk to your doctor as soon as possible so you can start taking steps to better sleep and, by extension, a better life.