American Sleep Association
Sleep Apnea Assessment

At-Home Sleep Apnea Test

Boy undergoing a sleep apnea test

Roughly 24 million Americans live with sleep apnea, but don’t even realize they have it. If you think you may be dealing with signs and symptoms of this sleep disorder, it is important to address it immediately because the side effects can be detrimental to your overall health. After consulting with your doctor, you may be ordered an at-home sleep apnea test. Learn the basics of home sleep tests and what you can expect from the process.

At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests

What Are At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests?

An at-home sleep apnea test is used for the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). As the name suggests, an at-home sleep apnea test is done right in the comfort of your home. Because you administer the test yourself without the assistance of a sleep technician, this home sleep test is also called an “unattended sleep study.”

Most home sleep test devices are portable – about the size of a telephone handset. There are a variety of devices you use to properly complete the test. Equipment can be accessed through a sleep specialist, primary care provider, or independent, for-profit companies.

What Do At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests Measure?

When you take an at-home sleep apnea test or home sleep test, there are specific biological parameters that are measured to gain insight on whether you have obstructive sleep apnea. Here are the factors measured and the devices that help collect the data.

  • Nasal and oral airflow: A thin wire is taped by your nose and mouth to monitor your airflow throughout the night. Some sensors look like an oxygen cannula.
  • Respiratory effort: With elastic belt bands placed across your chest and abdomen, data is collected on your respiratory effort.
  • Oxygen levels: A small, clip-like device called an “oximeter finger probe” attaches to your fingertip and emits a red light that assists in the evaluation of oxygen levels in your blood while sleeping.

What is the Process For At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests?

Completing your at-home sleep apnea test is a fairly simple process when you are fully aware of what it entails and how it works. While specific rules and instructions vary for each home sleep test provider, there is a general process you typically follow. To make it easy, we’ve broken it down into steps.

Step one: Consult with your doctor to see if the home sleep test option is right for you. If it is, your doctor will order the at-home sleep apnea test for you. Some websites offer the testing kit as an over-the-counter device, but you should always get it approved by your physician. This is especially true if you have any other medical conditions or are taking any medication. 

Step two: You’ll either get the equipment delivered to your door or you’ll need to pick it up from your physician. Once you have received your home sleep test, it’s time to apply the equipment to your body before you go to bed for the night. The equipment (mentioned above) includes a belt, small nasal cannula, and finger clip.

Step three: Sleep with the home sleep test equipment for one to three nights to gather enough data for your sleep technician and doctor to assess.

Step four: Return your at-home sleep apnea test devices to the proper diagnostic service provider.

Step five: Your sleep data will be downloaded, processed, and interpreted by a sleep technician and turned into a report. Your doctor will then discuss the report and your results with you.

Advantages of At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests

There are noteworthy advantages to taking home sleep tests if you qualify for them. While you must consult with your doctor to know for sure if this is the best option for you, take a look at the unique benefits you will enjoy if you partake in an at-home sleep apnea test.

  • Convenience: Home sleep tests are by far the most convenient option when it comes to sleep study tests because they can be administered right at home. Other sleep study tests, like the polysomnography, require you to drive to a sleep center to stay overnight and be monitored. There is more equipment involved and it can be uncomfortable sleeping in a lab. At-home sleep apnea tests avoid the hassle and allow for a DIY testing option.
  • Inexpensive: Because there is less equipment involved and no need for a sleep technician, at-home sleep apnea tests are very cost effective and affordable in comparison to lab tests.
  • Less Intrusive: As previously mentioned, home sleep tests don’t include many devices. There are only three easy-to-use equipment pieces that aren’t very intrusive to your body. Lab tests are much more involved with EEG, EKG, EMG, and other biological instruments.
Woman sleeping at home

Disadvantages of At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests 

As with any medical treatment, there are disadvantages that come along with the advantages. At-home sleep apnea tests have many positives, but take a look at some of its drawbacks.

  • Less accurate: Having fewer wires attached to you during sleep can mean less information when it comes to diagnosing sleep apnea. Additionally, these wires can detach throughout the night which will go unnoticed until a sleep technician reviews your results.
  • No additional diagnoses: Home sleep tests only test for obstructive sleep apnea which limits the doctor’s ability to diagnose for additional sleep disorders.

Preparation Tips for At-Home Sleep Apnea Test

Before you administer your home sleep test, it is important to plan ahead and follow a healthy routine that will allow for the most accurate results, as well as an effortless administering process. Incorporate these tips into your day to prepare for your at-home sleep apnea test.

Avoid Napping

Although it may seem obvious, some people routinely take midday naps that can possibly affect their sleep quality at night. Avoid napping during the period of time that you will be administering your home sleep test to ensure you’re tired and ready for bed when you need to be.

Stay Away From Caffeine After Lunch

Try as best as you can to skip your afternoon soda or cup of coffee because the caffeine will make you ancy and disrupt your sleep later on in the night. This is only important from afternoon and on, so if you want that morning pick-me-up, go for it.

Sleep on Your Back and Sides

Sleep position has a lot to do with how well you sleep at night. Your sleep apnea is typically worse when you lie on your back, and side sleeping can cause apnea. This may seem counterintuitive, but the whole point of the home sleep test is to see if and how bad your sleep apnea really is. Sleeping on your back and your sides will help give your doctor more information to decipher whether you are suffering from sleep apnea or not.

FAQs: At-Home Sleep Apnea Test

How long do you wear the sleep study equipment?

Usually, you wear the home sleep test equipment for one to two nights. A sleep apnea diagnosis can often be made during this period of time.

Are home sleep tests uncomfortable or painful?

No, home sleep testing equipment usually attaches to the body by velcro, elastic, and sometimes stickers. There shouldn’t be any pain, but maybe slight discomfort when adjusting to the sensors on your body.

Which is better, a home sleep test or polysomnography test?

Each type of test has its benefits and disadvantages. At-home sleep apnea tests are more convenient and less expensive, but more polysomnography tests collect more data and are attended by a certified sleep technologist.

How do I get a home sleep test?

Talk to your doctor. If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, your doctor might order a home sleep test. There are several sleep centers, home sleep study companies, and home sleep test businesses that offer this diagnostic test.

How much does a home sleep test cost?

The cost of an at-home sleep apnea test and use of sleep equipment varies. It often costs between $150 and $500. The cost is usually covered by most insurance companies. However, the patient must have the symptoms and meet “medical necessity” for an at-home sleep apnea test. Medicare, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, and most other insurance companies cover home sleep testing for sleep apnea.

Suffering from sleep apnea isn’t healthy for your mind or body, but there are plenty of resources to help you obtain a diagnosis and find the best treatment with your doctor. Home sleep tests are a convenient and cost-effective method for getting your sleep apnea diagnosis, so talk to your doctor today about whether it can work for you. If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, take this free sleep apnea assessment to determine your risk factor.

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