Sleep Lab Experience vs Sleep Test at Home

Sleep Lab Experience vs Sleep Test at Home

home sleep test

Getting sleep testing can be an overwhelming experience. You probably have a ton of questions floating through your mind: do you really need one? What is the process? How much does it cost? What are my options? These are all valid questions that you should take into consideration when scheduling and completing a sleep study. But let’s address some high level concerns first. 

A sleep apnea test is designed to measure your vitals while you sleep in order to determine whether or not you suffer from an excess of “apnea events.” These are excessive or elongated periods where you stop breathing, causing panic in the body which can interrupt your sleep routine. There are a couple of different ways that doctors can test for these vitals and determine your diagnosis. 

Ultimately, there are two forms of sleep testing: at-home sleep studies or in-lab sleep studies, sometimes called polysomnography. These two methods differ in how you schedule, time, pay for, and determine your potential sleep disorder. 

Polysomnography, or In-Lab Sleep Testing

A Polysomnography is a clinical sleep test used to identify and diagnose a variety of different sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. There are several types of nodes, wires, and attachments that will measure dozens of different vitals during your night of sleep. Important for diagnosing several sleep problems, the data measure your brain waves, heart rate, breathing, blood oxygen levels, and eye/leg movements during sleep. 

In order to complete a Polysomnography, you’ll have to go to either an in-hospital sleep lab or a dedicated sleep study medical center. A professional must hook you up to all the wires/nodes and monitor your sleep the entire night in order to gain reliable data for diagnoses.

You’ll spend the night in what looks like a hotel bedroom/bathroom and will wear about two dozen sensors and nodes from your scalp to your legs in order to gather the information mentioned above. You will receive your detailed results in a few weeks after they have been reviewed and interpreted by a board-certified sleep physician. Sleep lab testing can be a very uncomfortable and strange experience because you’ll be sleeping in a foreign bed and location while hooked up to lots of monitors. But this testing process can be necessary if you suffer from more severe sleep disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome (RLS). 

It’s natural to be wary or uncomfortable with the idea of an in-lab sleep testing, especially if you are only being tested for potential sleep apnea--a much easier, more clear cut sleep disorder. Especially now, as the county continues to suffer from COVID-19, it’s natural to want to avoid hospitals and medical centers at all costs. But there is another option if you want to seek out testing for sleep apnea: at-home sleep testing

At-Home Sleep Apnea Testing

Home sleep tests happen in the comfort of your own home and your own bed. This is an excellent option for those who are fairly certain they may be suffering from sleep apnea based on their on-going side effects. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea because of excessive daytime fatigue, chronic headaches, difficulty falling or staying asleep, or mood swings, then you’re a great candidate for at-home sleep testing.

Once you receive your Home Sleep Test (HST), you will be given clear instructions on how to appropriately activate the device so it can record your data as you sleep. It will record various biometric inputs like blood oxygen levels, breathing patterns, respiratory effort, sleep positions, and even heart rhythms. All of this gives our physicians enough data to get a clear idea of your nightly sleep patterns and whether or not you may be suffering from OSA. Once the test is over, you will mail back the device and all that data will be interpreted by board-certified sleep physicians. 

At-home sleep tests are wonderful alternatives for those who may already suspect they have obstructive sleep apnea. In-lab testing is always an option, but it is quite expensive and most are unable to justify the expense of such a costly option. While lab sleep studies may be necessary for those suffering from more severe sleep conditions (like narcolepsy or RLS), those with OSA may not need to endure the experience. Home sleep tests allow you to get tested in the safety and comfort of your own home, so let’s take some time to look at some of your home sleep testing questions.

Are These Tests Inaccurate or Unreliable? 

Absolutely not. Home sleep testing accumulates your biometric data through an easy to use testing unit and then your results are interpreted by a board-certified sleep physician. The testing unit takes many factors into consideration, like breathing patterns, heart rhythms, snoring, sleep position, breathing difficulties, and blood oxygen levels. By collecting this data during a normal night of sleep in your home, you’ll rest assured that your results will be reliable and representative of your sleep condition.

What Will The Sleep Tests Measure?

Home sleep tests are much more suited for those who suspect they may be suffering from OSA because the unit is specifically designed to monitor breathing anomalies that can interrupt good sleep. There are three individual sensors that will help monitor your sleep patterns and behaviors. 

First, you’ll have a small nasal apparatus that will sit under your nostrils to monitor airflow and breathing throughout the night. Second, you’ll have an adjustable chest belt that will watch for breathing difficulty or respiratory effort. Lastly, a small finger sensor will continually monitor your blood oxygen levels to see if how much breathing you’re doing is sufficient for your body. 

Home studies like the ones just described are excellent for those who believe that OSA could be the cause of their nightly (and sometimes daily) discomfort. If you receive home sleep testing results back but are not diagnosed with OSA, it’s important to consider that your sleep problems may be due to something more severe that could require a lab study. 

Are My Results Accurate?

Yes! Because the home testing unit is collecting your biometric data, your results are fairly accurate and will give our board-certified sleep physicians a clear idea of your OSA (or lack thereof). Once you complete the overnight testing, you’ll mail back your unit for analysis in our labs. Our physicians will analyze all your data in order to determine if you have OSA, and, if you do, what level of severity it is. 

Once your results are mailed back to you, you’ll be contacted by a customer care representative from your sleep test provider who will go over your results and review your options for treatment or next steps with you. You won’t be left alone to deal with a new diagnosis alone. Not only that, but the physicians who review your data will recommend courses of treatment and potential CPAP or AutoPAP prescriptions. 

If you’re looking to protect yourself and loved ones by avoiding unnecessary trips to a hospital or medical center, then an at-home sleep test is a great option for you! COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, has a high infection rate, especially inside buildings, so staying at home is the safest option for you and your family. An at-home sleep study ensures that you can get an accurate diagnosis from a board-certified sleep physician without leaving your home. Getting great sleep starts with getting your diagnosis sooner, so reach out today and see if at-home sleep testing is the right option for you.

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