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Sleep Apnea Test At Home: How It Works

By Michael Howard
At-home sleep tests are commonly used to diagnose sleep apnea. Learn more about the steps involved in this form of remote sleep testing.

The National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project reports that at least 25 million adults in the U.S. are affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form of sleep apnea. As the disorder can lead to serious health complications when left untreated, early diagnosis is crucial. If you're having symptoms of OSA, you may be interested in at-home sleep study options that don’t require you to spend the night in a lab. Read on to find out more about how these tests work.

How At-Home Sleep Testing Works

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that results in stopped breathing multiple times throughout the night. Although the body rouses during these breathing pauses, it often does so for such a brief period of time that the sleeper is unaware of the interruption. That’s why sleep apnea is sometimes first detected by a sleep partner, rather than the person with the condition. 

Once symptoms are spotted, it’s common to undergo a sleep study in order to determine if sleep apnea is present. Some people also notice troublesome daytime symptoms that could be connected to sleep apnea, and either self-determine or receive a physician recommendation to undergo a sleep study. 

At-home sleep apnea tests function as an alternative to traditional sleep studies, which require you to spend the night at a sleep center under the observation of a specialist. At-home tests are typically used to confirm the suspected presence of OSA. If your doctor orders an at-home test, or you qualify as a test candidate without first visiting your doctor, you will administer the test yourself in the comfort of your own home.

“There are a number of different types of home sleep apnea tests (HSATs) available,” Jeffrey S. Durmer, MD, PhD, and Chief Medical Officer of Nox Health, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “All HSATs include an oximeter to detect drops in blood oxygenation that may occur as a result of complete airway closures, called apneas, or partial airway closures, called hypopneas.”

In addition to being less expensive and more comfortable, at-home tests have the advantage of monitoring you in your natural sleep environment.

“Testing at home provides clinicians with real-world sleep data that takes into account everything from pillows, blankets, and bedding to light, noise, and temperature variation,” Durmer says. “All of these can and do impact sleep quality, and an assessment while in the natural environment of a patient can be very helpful.”

Depending on your circumstances, you may decide to do your sleep apnea assessment via telemedicine. Typically, this will involve a remote consultation—either online or by phone—with a sleep specialist to determine whether an at-home test is right for you. 

If an at-home test is recommended, a test kit will be delivered to your doorstep. Your kit will come with instructions and you'll complete your evaluation over the course of 1-3 nights of sleep in your own bed. 

After you administer the test, your results will be reviewed by a qualified physician, who will contact you to discuss your diagnosis and treatment options.

Think you may have a sleep disorder? Start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.