If it regularly takes you more than 30 minutes to doze off, or you wake up a lot during the night, or you feel exhausted during the day despite clocking seven to nine hours in bed, then you may have a sleep disorder. Sleep tests can help your doctor pinpoint whether you have a sleep issue by uncovering breathing problems such as sleep apnea—a condition that’s linked to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. Your doctor may want you to take part in a sleep study to try to uncover an underlying sleep disorder. The good news is that there are home sleep study kits out there that you can try, in case the idea of spending the night in a strange sleep lab (while hooked up to dozens of monitors) sounds less than appealing to you. Read on to find out how these home tests work, and whether or not they’re really effective.
How a Home Sleep Test Works
You’ll get a portable monitor that’s small and lightweight, and you can pick it up at a sleep lab. It comes with step-by-step instructions, but the basics include placing a belt around your mid-section (which is linked to the monitor by a wire), attaching a clip to your finger, putting an airflow sensor under your nose, and turning on the monitor. You usually return the device to the lab the next day, and a technician will create a detailed report based on your results.
What It Measures
A home sleep test (HST) measures oxygen saturation, heart rate, airflow, movement in your chest and abdomen and it will also record time spent snoring and your sleep position. To give you some context, a sleep test done in a lab measures all of the things mentioned above, as well as brain waves, sleep time, and leg movements (an indicator of restless leg syndrome). So a HST is effective at helping to diagnosis sleep apnea (one of the most common sleep disorders), but not other disorders.
The Pros and Cons
The benefits of HSTs are that you can snooze in the comfort of your own bed versus a lab, it’s cheaper (they start around $250 to $300 versus $1300 in a lab), and more convenient—especially if you live far away from a sleep center. While a HST may underestimate the severity of your sleep apnea compared with an in-lab test, it should definitely detect whether you have it or not. However, you won’t get the extensive results that you’d get from a sleep study performed in a lab, which can detect more than 80 different types of sleep disorders. Plus, you won’t have the benefits of a staff on hand to make sure that you’ve attached the monitor correctly, or to fix it if it falls off during the night. Talk to your doctor about whether a home sleep study kit is right for you.