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At-Home Sleep Study

by BetterSleep
Nov 26 2022 • 8 min read
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A sleep study is a test used to diagnose and treat sleep disorders. Sleep studies are conducted in a special facility called a sleep lab, sleep clinic, or sleep center, where patients are monitored overnight while they sleep. However, it is now possible to conduct sleep studies at home, using portable equipment that can be rented or purchased.

If you’re curious about what your sleep patterns are like, or you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, an at-home sleep study can be a convenient and easy way to get answers. Here’s what you need to know about at-home sleep studies, including how they work and what to expect.

But first, let’s take a look at what sleep studies are and how they can help diagnose obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

What is a Sleep Study?

A sleep study also called a polysomnogram (PSG), is a test used to diagnose and treat sleep disorders. Sometimes, they are also conducted for research purposes. Conducted overnight in a sleep lab with a sleep specialist, a PSG records the following:

Brain waves

Your brain waves indicate what stage of sleep you’re in. They also show whether you’re having any abnormal brain activity that could be causing sleep problems.

Eye movements

Our eyes move as we dream, so monitoring eye movements can help determine what stage of sleep we’re in.

Heart rate

During sleep, our heart rate usually slows down. But if you have a sleep disorder, your heart rate may be higher than normal while you’re asleep.

Breathing

We usually breathe more slowly and evenly when we’re asleep. Your breathing may be different if you have a sleep disorder.

Body movements

A record of your body movements can help show whether you’re restless or having muscle spasms while you sleep.

Sleep studies can also be used to determine the cause of daytime fatigue or sleepiness.

Types of Sleep Studies

In the United States, sleep studies are categorized as Type I, Type II, or Type III. At-home sleep studies are officially called Home Sleep Tests (HSTs) and they can either be Type II or Type III.

  • Type I sleep studies are conducted in a sleep lab with a sleep specialist. Patients are monitored overnight and their sleep stages are recorded. Type I sleep studies measure the full range of sleep parameters, so they are considered the most comprehensive.
  • Type II sleep studies are more often conducted in a sleep lab with a sleep specialist, but they can also be done at home. Type II sleep studies can measure brain waves, eye movements, and respiratory and heart rates.
  • Type III sleep studies are conducted at home with portable equipment. Patients do not need to be monitored by a sleep specialist. This type of sleep study is also often called an “unattended” sleep study.

How a Sleep Study at a Sleep Lab Works

During a PSG, sensors are placed on the head, face, chest, and legs. The sensors are connected to a computer, which records the data. They also monitor patients with video and audio to document sleep behaviors.

The information gathered during a PSG can help doctors prescribe medication or make other recommendations to improve sleep. For example, if obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is diagnosed, a doctor may recommend the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

What Are The Risks?

There are no risks associated with sleep studies. The sensors used in the study are safe and do not emit any harmful radiation. There may be some discomfort from the sensors, but they can be removed at any time if they are causing pain or irritation.

At-Home Sleep Tests or Studies: A Convenient Alternative

If you’re interested in having a sleep study but don’t want to go to a sleep lab, an at-home sleep study may be a good option for you. Portable devices that monitor your sleep can be used in an at-home sleep study. These devices are small, easy to set up, and available for rent or purchase. You can take the sleep study in your own bedroom rather than travel to a facility.

At-home sleep studies are not as comprehensive as those conducted in a sleep lab. For example, they may not include video monitoring. However, they can still provide valuable information about your sleep patterns and whether you have a sleep disorder. For example, using the results of an at-home sleep study, a doctor may diagnose sleep apnea, which can either be central sleep apnea or obstructive.

And, because you’re in your own home, you may find it easier to fall asleep and get a more accurate picture of your sleep habits.

How At-Home Sleep Studies Work

At-home sleep studies are usually conducted after you have visited a sleep specialist. The sleep specialist will review your medical history and symptoms. They may also conduct a physical exam and order some tests, such as a sleep study in a sleep lab.

Based on the evaluation, the sleep specialist will determine if an at-home sleep study is appropriate for you. If so, they will prescribe a device for you to use. The device will be shipped to your home along with instructions on how to set it up and use it. You may also be asked to drop by the sleep specialist’s office to pick up the device.

You will also be asked to keep a sleep diary during the study. This will help the sleep specialist interpret the data from the study. Below, we discuss two major types of at-home sleep studies: actigraphy and PSG.

Actigraphy

During an actigraphy sleep study, you wear a small device on your wrist that tracks your sleep-wake cycles. The device, which is about the size of a watch, is worn for 7-14 days. It records your sleep patterns and provides information about the quality of your sleep. Actigraphy can help provide insight into sleep disorders, but it may not be as accurate as PSG.

Actigraphy measures your sleep-wake cycles by tracking your body movements. The device uses an accelerometer to detect when you’re asleep and awake. It also has a clock to track the time. The device doesn’t record brain activity, so it can’t be used to diagnose sleep disorders that involve changes in brain activity, such as sleep apnea.

PSG

PSG is a more comprehensive option, but it is also more expensive and less convenient. During a PSG sleep study at home, you will be connected to sensors that monitor your heart rate, breathing, and body movements. The sensors are connected to a small computer that you will keep next to your bed. The study usually lasts one night, but it can be extended to two or more nights if needed.

When the study is over, the data from the sensors will be downloaded to a computer. A sleep specialist will review the data to look for patterns and determine if you have a sleep disorder.

This test may either be attended or unattended, depending on the recommendation of your sleep specialist.

Home sleep apnea testing (HSAT), for example, is a type of PSG that is conducted while you sleep unattended. The sensors are set up before you go to bed, and they are removed when you wake up in the morning.

Devices Used in an At-Home Sleep Study

Usually, your doctor will request you to use 3-4 devices during an at-home sleep study. The most common devices used are:

  • Actigraphy device: This device is worn on the wrist and tracks your sleep-wake cycles.
  • Pulse oximeter: This device is placed on your finger and measures the oxygen level in your blood.
  • Sleep position monitor: This device is placed under your mattress and tracks your body position during sleep.
  • Body movement sensor: This device is placed on your chest and monitors your body movements during sleep.
  • Respiratory effort sensor: This device is placed around your chest and monitors your breathing during sleep. A respiration belt may also be used.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test is used to check for heart problems. You will be asked to wear sensors on your chest and limbs.
  • Leg movement sensor: This device is placed on your leg and tracks movements during sleep.
  • Snore monitor: This device is placed next to your bed and tracks snoring sounds.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG): This test is used to check for changes in brain activity during sleep. You will be asked to wear sensors on your scalp.

Who Can Benefit from an At-Home Sleep Study?

Not all sleep disorders can be diagnosed with an at-home sleep study. And not everyone with a sleep disorder will benefit from an at-home study. In general, at-home sleep studies are most useful for diagnosing sleep apnea and insomnia. That is why these studies are also sometimes called at-home sleep apnea tests.

If you have a sleep disorder that is affecting your quality of life, such as excessive daytime sleepiness or loud snoring, you may benefit from an at-home sleep study. A home sleep apnea test, for example, can zero in on sleep apnea and help you get the treatment you need.

That said, at-home sleep studies are best for those who already suspect they have a sleep disorder. If you’re not sure if you have a sleep disorder, it’s best to start with a visit to a sleep specialist. The sleep specialist can conduct a physical exam, review your medical history, and order tests, if needed, to determine if you’re suffering from any sleep issues.

If the sleep specialist suspects you have a sleep disorder, they may recommend an at-home sleep study as the next step in the diagnosis. This is recommended before you take any type of sleep medicine or have therapy.

How to Get the Most Out of an At-Home Sleep Study

If you’re considering an at-home sleep study, there are a few things you can do to increase the accuracy of the results.

First, make sure to follow the instructions carefully. This means wearing the sensors as directed and keeping a sleep diary.

It’s also important to create a comfortable sleep environment. This means keeping the room dark and quiet and at a comfortable temperature. You should also avoid using alcohol or caffeine before bed.

Finally, make sure to keep a regular sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. By following these tips, you can increase the accuracy of your at-home sleep study.

BetterSleep: Track Your Sleep and Wake Up Refreshed

If you’re looking for an easy way to track your sleep, BetterSleep is the perfect app for you. With BetterSleep, you can:

  • Log your sleep and wake times
  • Set a sleep goal
  • Track your sleep habits
  • Get a detailed sleep analysis
  • Wake up to a gentle alarm

If you’re thinking of taking an at-home sleep study, you can start by downloading BetterSleep today. Our app tracks your sleep and provides detailed analysis so you can prepare yourself for more thorough testing.

You may also explore the app and see if any of our guided curated content, music and sounds, or articles resonate with you and your needs.

We wish you a restful night, always!

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