Some sleep disorders can be diagnosed during a routine exam and a conversation with a sleep specialist. But if you or your doctor suspects you have sleep apnea, an overnight sleep study is the best way to confirm it.
But what if the nearest sleep center is hours away or booked up for months? Or what if a disability, or dependents, or a job makes a night in a lab too difficult? In cases such as these, a sleep doctor might prescribe a home-testing kit.
There are many home tests on the market, but none of them record all of the vital signs that a complete in-lab sleep study wouldeye and limb movement that might be associated with a neurological disorder, for example. There is increasing evidence, however, that suggests they are effective in diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea. The information they collect may include the following.
Head and neck movement
Acceptance of home testing is growing in the sleep medicine community: In 2007 the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) revised a long-standing policy and now endorses the use of portable monitoring for a specific group of people. Many insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, also cover home tests for eligible patients.
Who is eligible?
Home tests aren't for everyone. Even if you don't want to go to a sleep lab, it's still important to have a full exam with a certified sleep specialist to determine whether you can skip the overnight lab study. The AASM approves the use of home tests only if you meet the following criteria.
- You are between 18 and 65 years of age. Home sleep tests are not recommended for children or older adults.
- You have a high risk of moderate-to-severe sleep apnea. Your risk for sleep apnea can only be determined by a complete sleep evaluation. Key risk factors include loud and frequent snoring, daytime sleepiness, obesity, and witnessed pauses in breathing during sleep.
- You have no other major medical problems. Other medical problems can affect the results of a home sleep test, including lung disease, neuromuscular disease, and congestive heart failure.
- You have no other sleep disorders. Other sleep disorders also can affect the results of a home sleep test. During your evaluation the sleep specialist will determine if you show signs of having another sleep disorder. Examples include central sleep apnea, periodic limb movements, insomnia, parasomnias, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, and narcolepsy.
You also may be eligible for a home sleep test if health or safety concerns prevent you from being able to leave home for a night. A home sleep test also may be used to evaluate your response to some sleep apnea treatments, including oral appliances, surgery, and weight loss.
You will need to go to a sleep center for an overnight study if you do not meet the criteria listed above.