If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, you’ve likely heard of a sleep study, which is when a doctor evaluates your patterns of sleep, searching for irregularities. However, you may not know that there is an option to evaluate your sleep from home. In fact, there is a specific at-home sleep test for people suspected to have sleep apnea.
In this article, we’ll outline the definition of an at-home sleep apnea test, what you can expect if you partake in this type of study, the cost of an at-home sleep apnea sleep study, and we’ll also answer some frequently asked questions regarding this topic.
What Is an At-Home Sleep Apnea Test?
A typical sleep apnea test is usually conducted in a lab setting, where sleep technicians have access to machines that are used to assess sleep patterns.
If you don’t like the idea of sleeping overnight in a lab, you may choose to take a sleep apnea test at home. During this sleep study, you are hooked up to sensors that monitor various aspects of your functioning while you sleep.
An at-home sleep apnea test comes with a variety of benefits, such as a decreased price, greater convenience and accessibility, and the comfort of participating in the test in your own bed.
What Does an At-home Sleep Apnea Test Evaluate?
You may be wondering what the sensors of a sleep apnea test evaluate. The Mayo Clinic1 explains that some factors measured by an at-home test are:
- Heart rate
- Blood oxygen level
- Breathing patterns
While an at-home sleep apnea test may sound ideal, it is important to consider the drawbacks when opting out of a traditional in-lab sleep apnea sleep study. Compared to the factors evaluated by at-home studies, in-lab studies monitor1:
- Heart activity
- Lung activity
- Brain activity
- Breathing patterns
- Arm and leg movement
- Blood oxygen level
As you can see, in-lab sleep apnea tests are more in-depth and comprehensive compared to tests conducted at home. However, a 2021 study2 concluded that at-home sleep tests are a valid way of diagnosing sleep apnea. This means that although they might not be as detailed as in-lab studies, at-home tests still produce meaningful results.
According to Harvard Health Publishing3, at-home tests should only be used by people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. Since at-home studies are less in-depth and detailed than those conducted in labs, at-home tests may not detect less severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea3.
To further support this claim by Harvard Health Publishing, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine4 emphasizes that at-home tests should not be used by asymptomatic patients and only be used by people who present clear symptoms of sleep apnea. Make sure to consult your doctor when choosing the type of sleep apnea test in which you’ll participate.
What to Expect Before, During, and After an At-Home Test for Sleep Apnea?
Step 1: Get a Prescription
Before you can participate in an at-home test for sleep apnea, you should get a prescription from your physician. According to The Thread by Walgreens5, at-home sleep apnea tests are only available when prescribed by a doctor.
Step 2: Take the Test
Once your doctor has given you a prescription for a sleep apnea test, you can purchase the device you’ll use to monitor your sleep. The easiest way to purchase an at-home sleep apnea test device is by ordering it online and with the help of your prescription.
During the at-home sleep apnea test, you’ll use a nasal prong6 to measure airflow and a fingertip probe to monitor your oxygen levels. Additionally, the at-home test includes a chest belt and an abdomen belt, both of which monitor your breathing6. These four sensors are attached to a device that records the information throughout the night6. After your night’s sleep, you can remove the sensors.
Step 3: Review the Results With Your Doctor
After you’ve completed an at-home sleep apnea test, your doctor can view your breathing, airflow, and oxygen levels to assess whether or not you experience sleep apnea. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor will likely suggest you begin sleep apnea treatment.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP device, which is a mask worn at night that works to keep your airflow open. This increased airflow helps prevent you from stopping breathing.
Another way to treat sleep apnea is by using a variety of oral appliances. Some include mouth guards and rapid maxillary expansion (RME).
In severe cases, surgery may be the best route to take in order to treat sleep apnea. As always, consult your physician before making this kind of decision.
How Much Does an At-Home Sleep Apnea Test Cost?
Based on our online research of varying at-home sleep apnea tests on the market, these evaluations cost between 150 and 500 dollars, but this price will vary depending on your doctor, location, and insurance policy. For instance, iSleep7 sells an at-home test for 349.99 dollars.
Medical insurance companies often cover the price of these tests, depending on certain criteria you must meet.
Want to know more? Read our article: What is The Cost of a Sleep Study?
Frequently Asked Questions About At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests
Are at-home sleep apnea tests accurate?
Yes, in general, at-home sleep apnea tests are accurate. Specifically, a 2022 study8 concluded that at-home sleep studies are particularly helpful in determining a preliminary sleep apnea diagnosis. Researchers suggested that in-lab tests could be a second step in this process, which would help assess the severity of the patient’s sleep apnea8.
Is there an over-the-counter sleep apnea test?
No, there is not an over-the-counter sleep apnea test. You must obtain a prescription from a medical professional in order to participate in an at-home sleep study5. A medical professional will also review the results of your sleep study after you’ve completed it.
How long do you have to sleep for a sleep apnea test?
There is not a specific number of hours9 of sleep required for a sleep apnea sleep study. However, the more sleep you get, the better, because that means there will be more data for your doctor to observe9.
Last Word of Advice
Now that you know more about at-home sleep apnea tests, you should feel more prepared to participate in this type of sleep study, if you choose to test at home. Once you get a prescription, participate in the at-home study, and your doctor reviews your results, you will hopefully have a treatment plan in place. Whether your treatment plan is to use a CPAP or a different oral device, or to schedule a surgery, your quality of sleep will ideally improve over time.
Remember that while we can provide you with guidance, you should always consult your doctor before participating in a sleep study of any kind.
Emma is an Editorial Intern for Sleep Advisor. She collaborates with the editor and staff writers to come up with article ideas, create article outlines, and write for the website.
- “Sleep Apnea”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified April 6, 2024. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20377636.
- Zancanella, Edilson., Fernandes de Prado, Lucila., et al. “Home sleep apnea testing: an accuracy study”. Sleep Breathing Physiology and Disorders. April 10, 2021. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11325-021-02372-6.
- “At-home testing for sleep apnea”. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/at-home-testing-for-sleep-apnea.2016.
- Rosen MD, Ilene M., Kirsch MD, Douglas B., et al. “Clinical Use of a Home Sleep Apnea Test: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Position Statement”. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/full/10.5664/jcsm.6774. 2017.
- Stergachis PhD, Andy. “Testing for sleep apnea: How does it work?”. The Thread by Walgreens. https://blog.walgreens.com/wellness/sleep/testing-for-sleep-apnea.html. 2022.
- “What Are At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests?”. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-i-do-my-sleep-apnea-test-at-home/. 2022.
- “WatchPAT One Disposable Home Sleep Apnea Test”. iSleep Home Sleep Solutions. Webpage accessed September 6, 2024. https://isleephst.com/product/watchpat-one-disposable-home-sleep-apnea-test/.
- Hung, Chuan-Jen., Kang, Bor-Hwang., et al. “Comparison of a home sleep test with in-laboratory polysomnography in the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome”. National Library of Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35507020/. 2022.
- “Sleep Study Frequently Asked Questions”. Penn Medicine Princeton Health. Webpage accessed September 6, 2024. https://www.princetonhcs.org/care-services/sleep-center/sleep-study-frequently-asked-questions.