A comprehensive sleep study can easily uncover the presence of a sleep disorder and everything from a mild airway blockage to full-blown Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). These tests are important and potentially life-saving, yet one of the leading reasons why sleep disorder patients fail to obtain an accurate diagnosis is a reluctance to commit to the sleep study itself. It’s understandable – after all, who wants to sleep in a hospital bed, hooked up to a dozen or more sensors, and watched all night by a stranger?
This is one of the main reasons why many people today opt for home sleep studies, or HSTs, as a convenient alternative to traditional, clinic-based options. So, the question is, will at home sleep studies replace clinical sleep studies? Let’s look at both options to help you decide which is right for you.
At Home Sleep Studies
Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to the HST. From the comfort of your own bed, you can complete the sleep study and record valuable information that can be analyzed by a sleep specialist. Here are the main benefits of the home sleep test:
- You sleep at home. Not only is sleeping at home more comfortable than in a lab, but you may be able to more accurately create a normal sleep environment as well. The convenience of at-home tests is unmatched.
- It may be cheaper. Most HSTs cost a few hundred dollars or less, while a traditional sleep study can run five times that amount. Insurance is always a factor, so check with your provider to see what your coverage levels look like. If it isn’t any cheaper doing the study at home, you’ll want to weigh the potential benefits of the traditional study, which we’ll look at shortly.
You’re more likely to actually complete an at home sleep study. An HST is a wise move if you’re unlikely to complete a clinical sleep study due to the inconvenience. With nearly 80% of obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) patients failing to accurately diagnose and treat their OSA condition, at-home sleep studies make it easier to take that important first step and have a higher completion rate.
Clinical Sleep Studies
A traditional, clinic-based sleep study offers some benefits that home-based sleep tests can’t match. Though not nearly as convenience as the HST, a clinical study is different in a few important ways:
- Results are generally more complete. Accuracy is often better among clinical sleep studies versus HSTs, and the number of trackable metrics that can be gleaned from the clinical study tends to trump a home-based study. By working with a qualified medical professional during the clinical sleep study, you’ll be far less likely to induce inaccurate figures or mess up the results.
- Results are obtained quicker. A home-based study requires you to strap on a series of sensors and diagnostic equipment, then go to sleep as usual. An SD card-equipped device will record numerous data points during the night – then you simply return the HST equipment and a technician will read and interpret the results. It generally takes 2-4 days to receive results when using an HST, versus obtaining nearly-instantaneous data after a clinical study.
- It’s the best option if the patient has other health issues. Medical conditions like congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and neuromuscular conditions (as well as other health concerns that can trigger OSA-like symptoms) can interfere with a home sleep test. Specially-trained sleep doctors are better equipped to handle patients who may have comorbid health issues, and will be able to deliver far more accurate results than could be gleaned from an HST.
In the end, doing a home sleep study or a clinical sleep study comes down to patient preference. At home sleep studies are a great place to start if you’re suffering from sleep-related health issues, though many medical professionals precaution that a full clinical sleep study is the only solid option to fully and accurately diagnose Sleep Apnea or general respiratory issues. Start by talking to your doctor about your concerns, listen to their input and then make a decision based on what you feel is right for your particular situation.
Daniela has researched and published over 60 articles covering topics that aim to inform and empower people living with Sleep Apnea. As an avid reader and researcher, Daniela continues to grow her knowledge about Sleep Apnea and CPAP therapy everyday with the help of coworkers, CPAP.com customers, and members of other CPAP communities online.