A quick quiz! Would you prefer to sleep in:
- A laboratory
- Your own bed at home?
If you answered 2), you’ll be interested to know that you can do a sleep study at home.
Why might I need a sleep apnea home test?
Have you’ve been told that your snoring is becoming a problem? Or that your breathing is pausing during sleep, or that you’re gasping for air during the night?
Maybe you’re researching what might be causing you to wake up still tired, leaving you to struggle to stay awake during the day.
All these symptoms can be caused by sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition in which your breathing airway becomes repeatedly blocked as you sleep. Your body has to work harder to keep you safe while you slumber. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, you’ll need to have a sleep study (also known as a sleeping test). You can choose to have this done in a sleep lab or in your own home, and many people are choosing the at home sleep study option due to its convenience.
What does a sleep study at home measure?
The aim of a home sleep study is to determine whether you have sleep apnea. That involves measuring various aspects of your body’s function during sleep. For example, the WatchPAT, which is one option for in home sleep apnea testing, measures:
- Heart rate – an essential element of understanding the body’s function
- Oximetry – the levels of oxygen in the blood
- Actigraphy – sleep-wake cycles based on movement and light exposure.
- Body position – for some people, sleep apnea is only a problem when they asleep on their back
- Snoring – not all people who snore have sleep apnea but it is a sign that assessment is needed
- Chest motion – to see when breathing changes, pauses, or deepens
- PAT® – short for ‘Peripheral Arterial Tonometry’ – this technology specific to the WatchPAT and measures the tone of the arteries in a person’s fingertip.
What do home sleep studies look like?
There are various options for in-home sleep studies, including ones that can be worn like a watch (the WatchPAT), finger ring-style tests, a small chin sensor and a more detailed, fully wired sleep study option.
We’ve summarised and reviewed home sleep study options in our article titled Best Sleep Apnea Test at Home in Australia, but the main benefit of at home sleep tests is that you’re in the familiar environment of your own home and surrounded by all your usual creature comforts. The tests are portable and less invasive. Your routine is not disrupted and you’re free to do your sleep apnea test on a night of your choice. If you’re keen to think more about the pros and cons of in home sleep studies, you can refer to our article titled Sleep Lab vs At Home Sleep Apnea Tests.
What does the research say about sleep studies at home?
Scientists research at home sleep apnea test options through rigorous studies. They know that not everyone needs the incredibly detailed testing that happens in a sleep laboratory. They also know it is simply not possible for everyone with suspected sleep apnea to undergo full polysomnography, which is the type of testing done in a laboratory.
According to a paper published in 2021 in the journal Sleep Breath, polysomnography tests are: “expensive, labor-intensive, and have long wait times.”
The scientists who said this looked at the benefits and costs associated with in laboratory polysomnography compared with at home sleep tests using a WatchPAT device, which is worn around the wrist and finger during a night’s sleep at home.
They found that people who used a WatchPAT at home were diagnosed in an average of 21 days instead of nearly 80 days for those who waited for a sleep lab test. This meant that the home sleep study people accessed treatment in less than half the time.
At-home sleep studies save the medical system considerable funds, something that is particularly important in these times of stretched hospital and general practice resources. The researchers of this study concluded “cost-benefit calculation showed that this earlier treatment led to cost-saving of US$1179.50 per patient.”
A style of research called a meta-analysis, which looks at multiple other studies at the same time, looked at the ‘PAT’ aspect of the WatchPAT device. The scientists compared full polysomnography (PSG) to the WatchPAT and found that the PAT technology compared very well to the more intensive PSG assessment.
The researchers, who are based in Chicago, USA, concluded that: “this technology represents a viable alternative to PSG for confirmation of clinically suspected sleep apnea.”
What happens after my at home sleep apnea test?
Depending on which home test option you choose, you may need to return equipment and wait for the results of your assessment. Or, like with the WatchPAT, information from the sensors is sent directly from the device to a Sleep & Respiratory Physician.
You’ll receive details of your results and, if sleep apnea has been diagnosed, you’ll also receive treatment recommendations to start you on the road back to good sleep health.
If you’re interested to understand more about how the information about your sleep is analysed, read How to Interpret Your Sleep Apnea Test Results.
How can I arrange a sleep apnea home test?
You have a few options for arranging an in home sleep test. You can be referred by your GP to have an at-home version of polysonmography, though this needs to be fitted by a professional so the wait times can be long.
One easy option is to order a WatchPAT test online through Saving Brothers.
The easy to use, light and non-intrusive home sleep test device will be delivered direct to your door, ready for you to use on a night of your choice!
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of sleep apnea, at home sleep studies are an easy and quick way to be tested.
Testing for sleep apnea at home might be just what you need to find out whether treatment for sleep apnea is right for you and get on the path to good sleep health.
Phua CQ, Jang IJ, Tan KB, et al. Reducing cost and time to diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea using ambulatory sleep study: a Singapore sleep centre experience. Sleep Breath. 2021;25(1):281-288. doi:10.1007/s11325-020-02115-z
Yalamanchali S, Farajian V, Hamilton C, Pott TR, Samuelson CG, Friedman M. Diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea by peripheral arterial tonometry: meta-analysis. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013;139(12):1343-1350. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2013.5338