Your Guide to At-Home Sleep Apnea Testing
Do you find yourself constantly tired? Is it hard to concentrate with frequent headaches? Do you wake up with a dry mouth? Does your bed partner complain about your loud snoring?
Sound familiar? You could have obstructive sleep apnea.
If you've googled any of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to consider taking an at-home sleep apnea test. In this article, we'll guide you through everything you need to know about taking a sleep apnea test at home and other self-evaluating alternatives that may suggest you need to discuss the possibility of a sleep disorder with your health care provider or sleep medicine specialist.
Why should you get a sleep apnea test?
An accurate diagnosis opens the path to a better and healthier life. Sleep is an essential component of quality of life and longevity. If you have a sleep disorder preventing you from getting good quality rest, you need to get immediate treatment to avoid long-term health issues affected by poor sleep.
If you think you are experiencing signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it is important to consult with your doctor and decide if taking an at-home sleep apnea test is the correct treatment option for you.
Here's what to know about the test.
At-Home Sleep Apnea Testing
Sleep apnea is a common condition that interrupts your breathing patterns while you sleep. If left untreated, it can have significant health effects over the long term.
An at-home sleep test is prescribed to measure biological parameters that give insight for a sleep apnea diagnosis and help you get the treatment you need. Common treatments involve CPAP therapy using CPAP Machines and CPAP Masks that gently blow pressurized air through your airway at a constant pressure to keep the throat from collapsing, thus allowing you to sleep better. At-home sleep apnea testing has become more popular now with the COVID-19 pandemic since sleep centers are limiting their in-person visits.
What to expect from a Sleep Apnea Home Test?
The test monitors your breathing pattern and involves painless equipment attached to certain areas of your body to record your sleep activity, specifically:
- Nasal and oral airflow using a thin wire taped to your nose and mouth.
- The respiratory effort with elastic belt bands placed across your chest and abdomen.
- Blood Oxygen levels using a small device called an "oximeter finger probe" attached to your fingertip.
This information will help your doctor understand what's going on during sleep and identify the specific sleep disorder and its severity.
Preparing for your At-Home Sleep Apnea Test
To get the most accurate results for your at-home sleep apnea test, follow these tips:
- Avoid napping.
- Avoid or limit caffeine, especially after lunchtime.
- Sleep on your back or side.
What you need to know about a Home Sleep Apnea Test
- You Need a Doctor's Prescription:
This test is not available over-the-counter. Your primary care physician or sleep technician must prescribe the test.
- It's Simple and Convenient
Usually, it can be completed in one night, and with the advantage of sleeping in your own home, it translates into more accurate results.
- It's Cost-Effective
Less expensive than an in-lab study because there's less equipment involved, and no sleep technician needs to be present, and it's generally covered by insurance. Medicare does not cover at-home sleep apnea tests but they will cover lab sleep studies.
- It's Less Intrusive
The process involves minimal and easy to use equipment. Lab studies include EEG, EKG, EMG, and other biological instruments.
- Less Accurate Than a Lab Study
Lab studies like polysomnography provide more information. Additionally, they include a sleep technician's supervision to review your results from things like brainwave monitoring or muscle movement and make sure the test performs correctly. It is not recommended for people with certain conditions like congestive heart failure or neuromuscular diseases to take at-home sleep apnea tests because they need to be monitored for specific symptoms.
- Limited diagnosis
Home sleep tests only test for obstructive sleep apnea, limiting the ability to diagnose other sleep disorders or other common sleep issues that affect the body's sleep-wake cycles and cause excessive sleepiness. In a lab test or polysomnography (PSG) test you would be hooked up to various electrodes that monitor eye movement, muscle movement, brain waves, and much more. Thus, giving you a more accurate diagnosis than a home sleep test or HST.
How much does a sleep apnea test cost?
At-home sleep apnea tests range in price depending on the provider and the services included in the study. Prices can range from $100 to more than $600. However, if you plan to use insurance to cover the cost, you should check with your provider to detail what will be covered.
Most insurance companies have specific criteria required for them to cover your at-home sleep study test, such as:
- Specific symptoms related to sleep apnea before the sleep study.
- An in-person visit with a physician before ordering a sleep study test.
- Often prior referrals to sleep center doctors are requested.
- A physical examination of your mouth and airway, heart and lungs, and possibly a neurological assessment.
Before completing an at-home sleep apnea test, you'll want to consult with your doctor.
One of the best things you can prepare for your appointment is performing a self-evaluation.
Here are a few things you can start doing today as the first steps to determine if you have a sleep disorder and assess your condition's severity because this will determine the treatment you need to receive.
Write the entire routine of your day:
- What do you do during the day?
- How do you prepare for sleep?
- How is your sleeping experience?
- Do you wake up with a dry mouth?
- How does your sleep quality impact your daily functioning?
- Have you received any complaints from your bed partner about your sleeping habits?
The STOP-BANG Survey
A simple four yes-or-no self-evaluation survey you can take to assess the risk of having sleep apnea.
- S: Do you snore loudly (louder than talking or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)?
- T: Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the day?
- O: Has anyone observed you not breathing during sleep?
- P: Do you have, or have you been treated for high blood pressure?
- B: Is your Body Mass Index more than 35 kg/m2?
- A: Is your age more than 50 years old?
- N: Is your neck circumference greater than 40 cm?
- G: Is your gender male?
If you answered "yes" to two or more of these questions, you might be at risk for sleep apnea. Discuss these results with your health care provider.
The first step to getting treated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is getting diagnosed. Now that you know how an at-home sleep apnea test works, and the self-assessment alternatives that exist, you're ready to determine a course of action and set yourself up for a healthier life.
Take the sleep apnea quiz.