Home Sleep Apnea Test

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2020

Home sleep apnea tests (HSAT) are becoming a popular option to a full sleep lab test (polysomnography). There are some advantages and disadvantages to a home sleep apnea test versus a full sleep study at a sleep center.

How does a home sleep apnea test work?

After your doctor prescribes a home sleep apnea test, you will pick up the test kit at your doctor’s office. Or, the kit may be delivered to your house by a trained sleep therapist. You will get printed or video directions for how to use the kit.1-2

You should go to bed at your regular time. You will put on the sensors and turn on the monitor.

The parts of a home sleep apnea test include:1,3

  • A tube that fits into your nostrils and secures behind your ears, like an oxygen mask
  • A belt with sensors that fits around your waist or chest
  • A sensor that clips onto a finger
  • A monitor to collect details as you sleep

Just before you go to sleep, you will put on the parts of the test kit and turn on a monitor. The nose tube (also called a cannula) measures your breathing. The belt around your chest measures the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. The finger sensor measures oxygen levels and heart rate. The monitor may record the sound of your snoring as well as collect data.1,3

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When you wake up, you will take off the sensors and turn off the monitor. You will return the kit to the doctor’s office or mail it back. The information gathered overnight will be sent to a sleep doctor who will interpret the results. These results will be sent to your doctor. Your doctor will usually want to schedule an appointment for you to come in and discuss the findings.

A study in a sleep lab may be needed if your doctor suspects a sleep disorder other than sleep apnea.1-2

Does a home sleep apnea test work for everyone?

A high-quality home sleep apnea test works pretty well to diagnose sleep apnea in many people. However, these tests generally do not measure limb movement or the stages and quality of sleep. This means these tests cannot be used to diagnose restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movements of sleep, narcolepsy, and other types of sleep disorders. Home tests may work less well in women or those with mild sleep apnea.1,3

These tests cannot be used by people with heart failure or lung disease. People who cannot physically operate the device because of severe arthritis or poor vision will need a loved one to help.2

What are the advantages of a home sleep apnea test?

Home sleep apnea tests may be a good option for people who live far from a sleep lab. The at-home kits are also much less expensive than a full sleep study in a lab and are easy to schedule. Because an at-home sleep study takes place in the comfort of your home, it may be easier to fall asleep and get an accurate reading of your breathing patterns.1

What are the disadvantages of a home sleep apnea test?

A home sleep apnea test monitors your breathing and oxygen levels, not your sleep. This means that it will measure the pauses in your breathing while you sleep. It will not measure how long you are in light sleep or deep sleep.1,3

Home tests can be inaccurate if the sensors come off during the night. In a sleep lab, a technologist monitors you throughout the night and can replace sensors that fall off or come loose.1,3

Home sleep studies also cannot be used to diagnose sleep disorders caused by things other than breathing trouble.1

How much does a home sleep apnea test cost?

A home sleep apnea test costs $150 to $500. Insurance may cover some or all of the costs if your home sleep test is prescribed by a doctor. You can also buy home sleep apnea tests online. These vary greatly in quality and price, but may be an option for someone without insurance.3-4