What is a Home Sleep Test or HST (Sleep Apnea Test Sleep Study)?
A home sleep apnea test (HST) is a sleep study that is used for the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. Most HST devices are portable – about the size of a telephone handset. Home sleep testing is also called ‘Unattended Sleep Study’.
They usually measure the following biologic parameters:
- Nasal and Oral Airflow – by thin wire that is taped by the nose and mouth – some sensors look like an oxygen cannula.
- Respiratory Effort – by elastic belt bands that are placed across the chest and abdomen.
- Oxymeter Finger Probe – a small clip-like device that attaches to the finger tip and emits a red light that assists in the evaluation of oxygen levels in the blood while sleeping.
A patient is usually ordered a home sleep apnea test or ‘Sleep Study’ by his or her doctor who suspects that the individual has obstructive sleep apnea. The patient usually applies the above mentioned sensors to the body before sleep time and sleeps with the equipment for 1 – 3 nights. The equipment is returned to the diagnostic service company where the data is downloaded and processed for interpretation by a sleep physician.1
Once the data is interpreted by a sleep physician, a diagnostic interpretation report is sent back to the ordering physician who discusses the results of the home sleep testing.
Alternative to Home Sleep Testing
The other diagnostic tool for the evaluation of obstructive sleep apnea is Polysomnography. Polysomnography or PSG is a diagnostic test that uses the same sensors as HST but also includes EEG, EKG, EMG, and other biologic measurements in a laboratory setting with sleep technician or sleep technologist. This test is often three times more expensive than HST.1
The cost of a home sleep study, home sleep apnea test study, and use of home sleep study equipment, varies. It often costs between $150 – $500. The cost is often covered by most insurance companies. However, the patient most have the symptoms and meet ‘medical necessity’ for a test. Medicare, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, and most other insurance companies cover home sleep testing for sleep apnea.
Frequently Asked Questions about Home Sleep Study Testing for sleep apnea:
How long do you wear the sleep study equipment for?
Answer: Usually, you wear the HST equipment for 1-2 nights. A sleep apnea sleep study diagnosis can often be made during this period of time.
Is HST uncomfortable or painful?
No, home sleep testing equipment usually attaches to the body by velcro, elastic, and sometimes stickers.
Which is better, home sleep test (HST) or polysomnography (PSG)?
Each type of test has its benefits and disadvantages. HST is more convenient and less expensive. PSG collects more data and is attended by a technologist.
How do I get a Home Sleep Study for Sleep Apnea?
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.
The criteria for having a sleep apnea test
Most insurance companies have specific criteria that are required for having a sleep study. These vary from insurance payer to payer. Generally, they require that the patient have specific symptoms prior to the sleep study. Many require that the individual have a face-to-face visit with a physician prior to ordering a sleep study. Often the patient will need to have some of the following symptoms: excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), snoring, witnessed apneas during sleep, nighttime gasping or choking, or change in certain behaviors.2
The criteria for having a home sleep study is often less cumbersome than that for an in-laboratory sleep study. For the latter, some medical conditions are sometimes required to be present. These might include congestive heart failure (CHF), COPD, or other complex medical conditions.
During your office visit with your physician, you will be asked many questions relating to your sleep. The doctor may also refer you to a sleep doctor prior to the sleep study. A focused physical examination will include evaluation of your mouth and airway, heart and lung evaluation, and possibly a neurological assessment.
Do I need a Sleep Study?
If you have been told by your doctor that you should have a sleep study performed, you probably wonder what’s involved. Keep in mind; sleep is essential for good health. If you don’t sleep well due to a sleep disorder, it can affect all areas of your life from your health to your relationships. Productivity, mood and motivation can all be negativity affected by poor sleep, which is why it’s important to have a sleep disorder diagnosed.
Unfortunately, many sleep disorders go undiagnosed. In fact, it’s common not even to realize you have a sleep disorder. For instance, if you are tired all the time, you might just chalk it up to stress or a normal part of aging. Even if you know your sleep is poor, you might brush the problem aside.
Why Get a Sleep Study?
A medical history and a symptom review are not enough for your doctor to make a definitive diagnosis, which is why a sleep study or sleep apnea test is so important. Getting an accurate diagnosis allows you to get the treatment you need to improve your sleep and overall quality of life.
There are different types of sleep studies based on your symptoms. For example, maintenance of wakefulness test measures your ability to stay awake and alert during the day.
But the most common type of sleep study is called a polysomnography. This overnight sleep study records various processes including eye movement, oxygen level and brain activity. The study is used to diagnose sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and period limb movement disorder.
What to Expect During a Sleep Study
Having someone watch you while you sleep may sound a little awkward, but knowing what to expect can ease your concerns. You’ll usually be asked to arrive at the sleep lab in the early evening. After reviewing the process and answering any questions, you will be asked to change into your nightclothes.
The technologist will attach several types of sensors to your scalp and skin to measure your brain activity and eye movement. A belt will be placed around your chest and stomach to measure your breathing effort. Electrodes are also attached to each leg to measure body movement. A sensor is placed on one finger to measure oxygen level.
After you’re all hooked up, you can make yourself at home in the bedroom. The tech will monitor you from another room and communicate through an intercom system. After all the machine calibrations are completed, it’s time to try to get some shuteye. You are free to follow your normal bedtime routine, such as reading, listening to music or watching TV.
You might think it will be difficult to sleep hooked up to wires and monitors, but must people can get enough sleep during the test for adequate data to be obtained. In the morning, the technologist will remove the electrodes and answer any questions you have. In a week or so and after reviewing the study, your sleep specialist will discuss treatment options.
How do I Prepare for A Sleep Study?
Your main job during a sleep study is to sleep. It sounds pretty simple. But there are a few things you can do to prepare for your study:
- Avoid using any gels or sprays in your hair before the study. These substances can prevent the electrodes from sticking to your scale properly.
- Don’t take a nap before the study. Sleeping during the day may make it difficult for you to fall asleep during the study.
- Avoid beverages that contain caffeine, which can also interfere with falling asleep.
- Wear something comfortable to sleep in.
- Bring any medication you need overnight and clothes for the morning, as well as toiletries that you may need in the morning, such as a toothbrush or razor.
Having a sleep study or sleep apnea test is a common process. With a little preparation, your sleep study will go smoothly. Learn more about preparing for a sleep study.
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