For years, the only real way to find out if your snoring was caused by sleep apnea or if you were having trouble staying awake during the day because of narcolepsy was to spend a night at a sleep center. For the millions of Americans who struggle with sleep disorders like sleep apnea, the emergence of sleep centers and the advancements in sleep science that made diagnosis and treatment possible were a godsend.
Unfortunately, those who could not afford polysomnogram (sleep study), who didn’t have insurance to cover it, or who could not spend a night away from home, had limited access to diagnostic sleep studies. This means that many Americans with serious sleep disorders remain undiagnosed. However, there is a new test approved by the FDA last year that allows some people to get a diagnosable sleep test in the comfort of their own home. Because this new home test is significantly less expensive than a full sleep study, it makes it more affordable and more accessible to those who cannot spend the night at a sleep center. It is not as comprehensive as the data collected through a polysomnogram, or sleep study, but the results of a home sleep test can indicate to a sleep doctor if the patient might need further testing or in fact have a diagnosable sleep disorder.
While the new test is great news, it does have some people wondering which kind of test is better and if they should request one over the other. To help make it as easy as possible to get the help you need to get to sleep tonight, here is a breakdown of the similarities and differences between a sleep study conducted at a sleep center and a sleep test done at home.
1. Consulting with a Sleep Doctor
Regardless of which kind of sleep study you will be doing, it will start with a meeting at a sleep center with a sleep doctor. The sleep doctor will provide any equipment and instructions needed to take the test and answer any questions about the testing process to those people taking the home test. For those participating in a sleep study done at the center, this meeting will help set expectations and answer any questions you have about the test.
2. Taking the Test
One of the biggest differences between the two types of testing is where you will be sleeping during the test. If you are taking the test in a sleep center, you will be sleeping in a room in the lab with sensors connected to your body capturing information while you sleep. If you are testing at home, you can sleep in your own room, in your own bed. Another significant difference between the two tests is the information collected is different. A home sleep test doesn’t collect as much data as a polysomnogram and can only be performed on an adult for diagnosing one sleep disorder. During a home sleep test, you will also have some sensors capturing data but significantly less than a polysomnogram and you will need to connect them yourself based on the instructions given upon checkout from a certified sleep professional.
3. After the Test
The other big difference between the two types of testing is that once your in-lab sleep study is complete, you go home. Meanwhile, those who took the test at home will need to go back to the lab to return the equipment and give the sleep doctor the data to analyze.
If you feel like you are suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness, or seem to have trouble staying awake when you should, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about your sleep and find out if it makes sense to participate in some sleep testing. Your doctor can advise you on the best course of action and help get you the sleep you need.