Sleep Care

Home Sleep Testing: Pros and Cons

For the millions of Americans that suffer from sleep apnea, getting relief from the disorder usually begins with an overnight sleep study that is used to diagnose and identify the severity of the apnea. Historically this has meant the patient will travel to a sleep laboratory where a trained sleep technologist will administer the study by placing a variety of sensors on the head, face and body while the technologist monitors their vitals and observes on a video camera from a control room. However, developments in the technology and science of sleep have opened up home sleep testing as another viable option that can appear attractive to many patients. Some patients are not able, or simply will not go to a sleep center for an in lab test. For most it is the low cost, convenience and comfort associated with having a more private and less invasive home sleep test.  However, not all patients should have a home sleep test. First and foremost a patient must qualify for home sleep testing. These criteria include; having a clear case of obstructive sleep apnea, being between the ages of 18-65, and without any serious medical conditions such as; neuromuscular disease, congestive heart failure, lung disease, etc. Assuming these criteria are met let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of home sleep testing.

As mentioned above, an obvious advantage of home sleep testing is the convenience of testing at home. Sleeping in the comfort of one’s own home and bed, and avoiding travel to an unfamiliar location are attractive to many people. And for those who don’t live within close proximity of a sleep lab or have a disability, the convenience of home sleep testing may be their only option. Comfort is another important advantage of home sleep testing vs. in-lab testing, as the major difference between the two tests is the number of sensors that are affixed to the patient while they sleep. In the lab there are typically around 20 sensors recording everything from body position and breathing, to heart rate and brain activity, while most home testing kits utilize only 2-7 sensors. This can make a significant difference in the patient’s ability to fall asleep and remain asleep. And since sleep quality and duration are important in getting an accurate diagnosis, this can seem like a critical advantage of home sleep testing.

The minimal number of sensors also limits home sleep testing to only be able to diagnose sleep apnea, while in-lab tests are able to identify and diagnose most sleeping disorders. Additionally the lack of a trained sleep technologist during home testing who, among other responsibilities, is able to recognize when a sensor has come off during the night and replace it while the patients sleeps, allows a greater potential for inaccurate tests and misdiagnosis.

Finally, there is the concern of cost and insurance coverage of home sleep testing. Most in-lab sleep tests are considerably more costly than home tests. Should a patient have a high deductible insurance plan, the cost of the in-lab deductible may be higher than the total cost of the home testing procedure. Costs of in-lab and home tests can vary greatly from region to region, it is important to research all the costs involved with each.

For additional information on home sleep testing visit the Home Sleep Testing page.

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