Sleep Apnea Testing – 8 Signs You Should Take It

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While sleep apnea is a serious condition that can have potentially life-threatening consequences, it’s also something that may be helped or eliminated through testing and other methods, like weight loss or CPAP therapy.

Costs to be tested for the condition range depending on health insurance and where testing is performed.

Despite many health insurance companies covering the costs, the coverage amounts often differ, so knowing what to be prepared for ahead of time may help you stomach the price tag.

Further, knowing what to expect may help you feel more comfortable investing the necessary funds to help your sleep apnea and possibly improve your quality of life as a result.

What Is Sleep Apnea Testing?

Animated Image of a Woman Struggling to Fall Asleep Because Her Partner Has Sleep Apnea

Evaluating sleep apnea often involves overnight analysis of your breathing and other issues at a sleep center. These tests are referred to as nocturnal polysomnography. When sleep tests are administered, patients are typically hooked to specialized equipment to monitor breathing, brain, lung, heart activity, and blood oxygen levels. Arm, leg, and other body movements are observed as well.[1]

While sleep apnea testing is often performed in a specialized sleep center or laboratory, an at-home test may be an option as well. However, these portable tests may not detect all cases of sleep apnea, as sometimes false negatives appear due to their limited capabilities.

Depending on the results, a physician may still recommend further in-lab nocturnal polysomnography for a more accurate diagnosis. However, individuals whose results turn out positive for sleep apnea can often be prescribed therapy or a treatment plan.

Get More Info: Complete Guide to Sleep Apnea

Signs You Should Take a Sleep Apnea Test

Many individuals can go a considerable amount of time before realizing they struggle with sleep apnea. Believing symptoms to be indicative of other issues like snoring, insomnia, or mere irritability is common. However, undiagnosed sleep apnea can have life-threatening consequences, so being aware of symptoms could help with identifying the issue and seeking a solution.

You Experience Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (Hypersomnia)

Struggling through your days, feeling incredibly tired may be indicative of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea makes people stop breathing momentarily throughout the night. When breathing stops, most people wake up for air, which disrupts one’s sleep pattern, often resulting in tiredness.

You Have Trouble Staying Asleep (Insomnia)

Insomnia isn’t uncommon and occurs in about 20% of individuals. Insomnia may be an underlying issue, as it’s often a precursor to sleep apnea. There have been studies indicating the two conditions may be connected; however, research is still inconclusive.[2]

Illustration of a Woman Stuggling to Fall Asleep Alone

You Wake Up With a Dry Mouth

Research has shown that individuals who suffer from sleep apnea are twice as likely to wake up with a dry mouth. Noticing this issue in yourself could be a reason to believe you’re suffering from sleep apnea, indicating a potential need for testing and a possible treatment plan.[3]

You Struggle From Headaches

Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea often report morning headaches. In one study, the percentage of individuals with sleep apnea who reported headaches was higher than the percentage of participants who didn’t have headaches, indicating a strong correlation between headaches and the condition.[4]

Your Partner Says You Snore Loudly

Loud snoring is common among individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea. Noticing you’re snoring might be a crucial indicator of sleep apnea, as the two issues are often connected. When looking out for your health, it’s wise to err on the side of caution and seek testing to prevent the issue from worsening.

illustration of a woman using earplugs for blocking husbands snoring

You Experience Episodes of Temporary Ceased Breathing

Sleep apnea is often characterized by disruptive snoring, followed by momentary silence where breathing nearly or entirely stops. This brief occurrence usually causes a person to wake up and gasp for air or snort loudly. The pattern is often repeated multiple times within the course of a night.

You Struggle With Irritability

Irritability is often connected to sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation is a side effect of sleep apnea due to constantly waking up to breathe. Therefore, feeling tired and irritable may indicate a more significant root issue, and an at-home or clinical test may be necessary to treat the problem.

You Wake Up Gasping For Air

Waking up gasping for air regularly is a reasonably clear indicator that you’re struggling with sleep apnea. Other severe conditions could develop without treatment, including high blood pressure, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, and even stroke. Seeking a proper diagnosis by a certified physician could be life-saving.

Interested in learning more? Read how and why is sleep apnea misdiagnosed.

Illustration of Tom at the Doctors Office Tired with a Huge Bags under his Eyes

Sleep Apnea At-Home Test Versus In-Lab Sleep Study

At-home sleep apnea tests can provide considerable convenience and possibly even save on costs. However, these at-home tests are typically not as extensive, meaning they could potentially miss some indicators. On the other hand, sleep apnea tests run by doctors in a sleep center will be more extensive due to the inherent access to specialized equipment in a professional setting.

In-Lab Sleep Study

In-lab or clinical sleep apnea studies will almost always be more comprehensive than an at-home test. Due to the nature of tests done at a specialized clinic or hospital, they’re typically able to detect less severe symptoms and cases, which often appear in women.[6] Their greater abilities are typically because hospitals and clinics will have access to more tools and technical equipment than at-home tests, making them generally the more superior avenue for testing.

However, there are many reasons why in-lab sleep apnea tests are not an option for some folks. Financial strains are common for many individuals, making at-home tests the more appealing choice due to the smaller cost.

We would strongly recommend any woman to seek a hospital or clinical test because they’re typically a better choice when detecting female symptoms, as they commonly appear to be less severe than men. Unfortunately, research on sleep apnea has historically been predominantly male-led with male study participants, leading to diagnosis criteria only considering male experiences.

A Doctor Listening to a Patient Illustration

Pros

  • Comprehensive assessment and is typically more accurate
  • More likely to detect irregularities or milder cases
  • More likely to be able to diagnose women as they usually present less severe or obvious symptoms

Cons

  • Less convenient
  • More costly
  • More intrusive equipment creating possible discomfort

At-Home Test

Testing at home can provide considerable benefits; however, there are bonuses and drawbacks to each method. Doing an at-home sleep apnea test is often more convenient.

At-home tests will measure a few crucial factors. Nasal and oral airflow is monitored via a wire taped to the nose and mouth in addition to respiratory effort via chest bands, as well as oxygen levels using a fingertip probe.[5]

While clinical sleep apnea tests are great for diagnosing all types and levels of severity, they can be relatively invasive and uncomfortable, depending on the individual. Those who also struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions may find sleeping in a hospital to be stressful, making at-home tests a great alternative.

At-home tests are often less costly than clinical or hospital tests making them potentially more accessible to people of lesser financial means. Keep in mind, though, that while at-home tests have many benefits, they aren’t as extensive and have a history of producing false negatives, potentially missing less severe symptoms or indicators of sleep apnea.

Find Out More: What to Expect With an At-Home Sleep Study?

Illustration of an At-Home Sleep Study Sleep Apnea Research and Test

Pros

  • More convenient
  • Possibly more accessible for individuals with limited mobility or mental health issues
  • Cost less
  • More comfortable

Cons

  • Not as detailed and less accurate, leading to possible false-negative results
  • Work better with severe cases
  • They’re not suitable for everyone’s circumstances

How Much Does an At-Home Sleep Apnea Test Cost?

The cost of at-home tests for sleep apnea can vary depending on who the test is administered by. However, most at-home evaluations cost between $150 and $500. Medical insurance companies often cover the price of these tests, but there are stipulations to meeting specific criteria.

A medical necessity needs to be present, documented, and reported by a doctor. How severe the symptoms need to be to meet these criteria may differ depending on your insurance company.

Unfortunately, because medical insurance isn’t the same across the board, and copays differ from person to person. Depending on the individual health insurance plan, it’s difficult to determine the cost precisely without personal information.

Illustration of Giving Money for Mattress

How Much Does an In-Lab Sleep Test Cost?

Overnight polysomnograms often run anywhere from $600 to $5,000 per night and even more in some circumstances. The cost, on average, typically runs about $1,500 for each night. Various factors may influence this number, including where the center is located, what company runs it, which hospital or organization it’s funded by, and who your health insurance company is, will all play a factor regarding how much an in-lab or clinical sleep test will cost.

Further, not everyone will have the same type of health insurance or coverage plan. Some coverage plans may not cover any costs, even partially, whereas some cover the entire amount. Making a call to your provider ahead of time may be wise to mitigate any unpleasant surprise bills.

What To Know About Health Insurance Coverage and Sleep Studies

Are Sleep Studies a Common Health Insurance Coverage?

Most insurance providers often cover sleep studies; however, knowing for sure can ultimately only be determined by asking your provider. By choosing an in-network clinic and having met your deductible, the financial responsibility is often less than $200, but keep in mind this isn’t the case for everyone.

Out-of-network sleep tests can run anywhere from $300 to $600, and if you don’t have health insurance, you’d have to foot the entire bill yourself. Each state often has a different range of costs, so checking yourself will always be best for accurate knowledge.[7]

How Many Nights of Testing Are Covered by Insurance?

Determining how many nights of testing are covered by insurance will depend on your health insurance plan. Further, some individuals in the United States opt for supplemental health insurance, which also may fully cover the costs if your primary coverage doesn’t already. Typically, each individual has to show and meet certain criteria for a sleep apnea test to be covered.

Each circumstance is unique, and because health insurance differs so vastly, the out-of-pocket expenses will as well. You can check the member services portal online within a company website and then search (control + F) for “sleep center.” Further, clicking a facility’s services and searching the keyword “sleep” may yield helpful results.

We recommend speaking with both your health insurance provider and the sleep clinic. Be sure to clearly ask them to verify their relationship with your provider and ask for the estimated cost you’ll be expected to pay.

After Your Sleep Study— Expenses to Expect

illustration of CPAP kit

You’ll likely have some additional costs after being diagnosed with a sleep disorder. For example, your doctor may need you to participate in a second study, which is expected if you’ve only done an at-home test. In addition, those who need CPAP therapy will need to determine the appropriate pressure settings for the CPAP machine, which may also require further study and the purchase or rental of a CPAP machine.

CPAP machines typically run anywhere from $300 to $800 or more. However, they can be rented, costing anywhere from $29 per month to $80 per month, or higher. Renting a machine may be a good option if the individual plans to lose weight to combat the issue.

See Our Guide: Best Rated CPAP Machines

What To Expect: At-Home Sleep Study Equipment and Sleep Apnea (CPAP) Machines

An at-home sleep study usually includes a chest band, nasal tube, and a monitor that goes on one finger. These requirements are minimally invasive compared to the numerous sensors typically placed on your body at a sleep lab for overnight analysis.

In addition to a sleep apnea test, once diagnosed, you’ll likely need the appropriate CPAP machine and accessories. You’ll probably need a mask, cushion, filters, tubing, and a water chamber to supplement the device. Some of these items also need a regular replacement for proper functioning.

Illustration of a Woman Putting CPAP Chin Strap On

How To Find A Sleep Test Near Me / Sleep Studies Near Me

Many CPAP manufacturers offer search tools on their websites to find sleep study locations. Further, calling your health insurance provider and speaking with someone directly about which sleep centers or hospitals are covered in-network should help you narrow down which centers work with your plan.

Otherwise, many hospitals have sleep centers that you may consult and inquire with about having testing done. In addition, hospitals are often familiar with navigating health insurance questions and advising whether or not the studies will be covered under your plan.

Sources and References:

Content Writer

Rachael is a content writer for Sleep Advisor who loves combining her enthusiasm for writing and wellness. She’s had a passion for writing since she was a kid when she wrote awful poetry. She’s honed her craft quite a bit since then and considers herself a lucky duck to get paid to do what she loves.

Embracing the remote work life, she occasionally takes her work on the road and lives out her travel writer pipe dream.

In her free time, she attempts to meditate regularly, rides her bike to Trader Joe’s, and enjoys trying every type of food that she can get her hands on.

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