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.
After receiving your Home Sleep Test (HST) device and activating the recording session, the device will monitor a series of biometric data while you sleep—breathing patterns, blood oxygen saturation, heart rhythms, respiratory effort, sleep positions, and more. After you mail the device back to your HST administrator, a board-certified sleep physician will interpret your results, giving you a diagnosis and, if necessary, a prescription for a treatment machine. Please note, that HSTs are only approved for adults 18 years and older and are frequently limited to only testing for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
An at-home sleep study is a great option for anyone who believes they may be suffering from a sleep disorder, especially if the suspected disorder is sleep apnea. Though in-lab sleep studies are viable options for many, they are known for being expensive, uncomfortable, and anxiety-inducing because of the unknown surroundings and challenging conditions. Opting for a home sleep study means that you can measure your breathing alongside other sleep factors and get the diagnosis you need to start treatment sooner. Let’s debunk some home sleep study myths:
Are These Tests Inaccurate or Unreliable?
False. Home sleep tests have come a long way and measure a series of biometric data that are then reviewed by board certified sleep physicians to give you a clear understanding of your sleep quality. An at-home sleep test will measure everything from blood oxygen saturation and breathing patterns to breathing depth, heart rhythms, snoring, and even body position. Because home sleep studies give you the option to undergo monitoring from the comforts of home, it is imperative that you follow the sleep study directions to avoid user error. You need to ensure that all the monitoring tools are attached correctly to get the best results possible.
What Will The Sleep Tests Measure?
Your sleep study device has three sensors that will monitor your sleep and aggregate data throughout the night. A small nasal tube will measure airflow and breathing patterns, an adjustable belt will monitor respiratory effort, and a finger sensor will track your blood oxygen saturation.
At-home sleep studies are a great option for those who suspect they may have sleep apnea, a chronic condition where your body experiences airflow obstructions during sleep that can deeply impact sleep duration and quality. If you suspect that you may have a more anomalous sleep condition, like narcolepsy or restless leg syndrome (RLS), you may need an in-lab sleep study. But, for the common sleep apnea sufferer, an in-home sleep test will measure all the biometric data needed to get a clear diagnosis.
Are My Results Accurate?
After you’ve completed your home sleep test, you’ll send back the testing kit and a board certified sleep physician will review and interpret your biometric data. The physician will consider factors like blood oxygen saturation, breathing patterns, respiratory effort, body position, heart rhythms, and any obstructions or breathing stops. Using this information, the physician will create a full report of your sleep as well as a diagnosis if you are suffering from some level of sleep apnea. Once your results come back to you, you’ll be contacted by your sleep test provider who will review your results with you, answer any clarifying questions you may have, and go over your treatment options.
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.