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What is a home sleep study for sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can drastically reduce sleep quality and potentially lead to other health issues. Thus, it’s important to address sleep apnea and get a diagnosis so you can begin treatment. 

Unfortunately, sleep apnea is sometimes inconvenient to diagnose. Typically, you would have to do a sleep study at an in-person clinic to ensure a proper diagnosis. But that isn’t the only way to get a diagnosis. There’s a much simpler and more comfortable option — an at-home sleep study.

An at-home sleep study is easy-to-use and allows your health care provider to get important information about your sleep without you needing to go to an in-person sleep study clinic or lab. In this blog, we’ll break down what you can expect from an at-home sleep study and how it can help you get treatment for sleep apnea. Read on to learn more, or schedule a same-day appointment with a Circle Medical primary care provider to start addressing your sleep concerns as soon as possible.

How do home sleep apnea tests (HSAT) work?

An at home sleep apnea test, also known as an HSAT, will measure different sleep metrics to diagnose sleep disorders and assess your sleep patterns. The device will take in data like oxygen levels, heart rate, snoring, body position and more to give your primary care provider diagnostic information about your sleep.

When you do a home sleep apnea test, you’ll first need to speak with your primary care provider. A telehealth provider, like Circle Medical, will talk to you about your medical history and sleep concerns and then suggest an HSAT if they deem it medically appropriate. From there, you’ll be sent a small device that you’ll tape to the tip of your index finger while you sleep.

You only have to wear the device for two nights back-to-back to give your provider the necessary information. Once your sleep information has been captured, your sleep information will be sent to a sleep specialist, who works with Circle Medical, to review your results and create a customized treatment plan based on your diagnosis. This treatment plan, and sleep data, will then be sent to your Circle Medical provider who will review your  specific sleep study results with you during an appointment.

Home sleep apnea tests offer several benefits over in-lab sleep studies. The most obvious benefit is their convenience and affordability over traditional sleep studies. While some people prefer doing their sleep study from the comfort of home, it’s also a great option for people who have difficulties getting to a lab or who may not have convenient transportation.

While an HSAT can’t offer the same level of in-depth information as a laboratory sleep study, it is usually enough to diagnose sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

What does it measure?

As mentioned, home sleep apnea tests will take several measurements while sleeping. The primary metrics that your HSAT will measure include:

  • Airflow
  • Amount of apneic episodes 
  • Blood oxygen level
  • Heart rate
  • Sleep efficiency score
  • Total amount of REM sleep

This information can show your physician if you’re having interrupted breathing throughout the night, which is likely caused by obstructive sleep apnea (the most common form of sleep apnea). This information may help your provider identify the severity of your sleep apnea and its possible causes. Your doctor can then determine the best treatment option for your needs.

Depending on the HSAT device, other metrics can be measured. Breathing effort, sleep position, snoring frequency, snoring volume and more can also be measured.

Why is this beneficial for getting a sleep apnea diagnosis?

Home sleep apnea tests offer several benefits over in-lab tests. These benefits include:

  • Convenience — A sleep apnea test can be recommended by your telehealth provider and sent to your home if medically appropriate. This means you don’t have to leave your home for any part of the process. No driving to a clinic or a primary care physician.
  • Comfort — Going to an unfamiliar place to sleep can be stressful and uncomfortable. With an HSAT, you can sleep in your home and bed. This is especially useful for people who have difficulty sleeping somewhere else or people who need to keep a specific sleep schedule due to overnight work or other factors. 
  • Affordability — At-home sleep tests are typically more affordable than getting tests in a lab. In-lab tests are usually more comprehensive, so you may be paying more than necessary for tests you don’t need.
  • Less Invasive — HSATs require fewer connected devices. With Circle Medical, for instance, you just need to tape one small device to your fingertip. This is more comfortable than the various connectors they use in a sleep laboratory.

It is worth mentioning that in-lab tests are more comprehensive. They may sometimes be medically necessary if you have a more complex sleep issue. However, if you have a sleep disorder that can be diagnosed through an at-home test, this is by far the preferable option for most people.

What to do before your test

Before taking a home sleep study for sleep apnea, it is important to take the proper steps to ensure the best results. Preparing yourself before the test can help you get the most accurate diagnosis and create the best environment for successful testing.

  1. Your primary care provider will discuss your medical history before sending your test. You’ll want to make sure to let them know about any medications, so your doctor will know if these medications could affect the results of the test.
  2. It’s best to ensure you set yourself up for the most restful sleep possible and avoid doing anything that could affect the results of the test. This means avoiding caffeine and alcohol near bedtime. Limiting your physical activity to earlier in the day is also a good idea so you don’t raise your energy levels before going to bed. Make sure you don’t drink too much water right before bed to avoid waking up to go to the bathroom too often. You want to reduce your stimulation as much as possible, which brings us to our next point.
  3. Make sure you have a peaceful and restful environment that promotes sleep. This means ensuring you have a dark, quiet and cool room to get restful sleep. Try to avoid falling asleep with the TV on and make sure your bed is as comfortable as possible. Wear comfortable clothing as well.
  4. Now you’re ready to settle in for the night and take your test. Your HSAT will be a small circular device that you will tape to the tip of your finger. Simply follow the included instructions to ensure the device is properly connected and attached to get the metrics your sleep specialist needs to analyze your results. Also, remember to perform your at home sleep apnea test for two nights back-to-back.

By taking these simple steps before the test, you can help ensure the best possible results from your home sleep study for sleep apnea.

Understanding your results

Once your sleep information has been captured, your sleep information will be sent to a sleep specialist, who works with Circle Medical, to review your results and create a customized treatment plan based on your diagnosis. This treatment plan, and sleep data, will then be sent to your Circle Medical provider.

Your primary care provider will then schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss your results. They will go through the different metrics with you and answer any questions you might have about your results. If your diagnosis is obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor can start working on a treatment plan for you.

In rare cases, the at-home sleep study may not provide all the necessary information for a diagnosis. Your primary care provider may recommend repeating your at-home sleep study for another two nights, or may request further testing at a sleep clinic in these scenarios. It is important to note that your Circle Medical at-home sleep study device is good for 5 separate two-night at-home sleep studies, so you would not need to be sent another device if you need to repeat your at-home sleep study for whatever reason. However, most common sleep disorders can be diagnosed using at-home testing, so this often isn’t needed.

In short, it is important to understand the results of your home sleep study and to ask questions if you do not understand something. You can also consult with your doctor about your results and work together to find the best treatment option for you.

Common questions you may have

It’s common to have some questions before you decide if an HSAT is the right path for you. Your primary care provider will be happy to provide you with any answers you need, but here are some common FAQ answers to check out in the meantime:

  • Can I just conduct my own at-home sleep test?
  • No, the U.S. currently requires a prescription for individuals to take a sleep study.
  • How long does it take to complete a home sleep apnea test?
  • Once you receive your test, results can usually be analyzed after two nights of data collection.
  • Do I need to return my device after the study?
  • No! You can keep your device. This allows your doctor to recommend a follow-up study to see if the treatment is working if you are prescribed a CPAP or oral appliance for sleep apnea. If needed, it also lets you use it for future sleep studies with your primary care provider.
  • Are there any risks associated with taking the test?
  • The test is noninvasive and painlessly attaches to your fingertip.
  • Who will be reviewing the results of my test?
  • Your primary care provider forwards your test results to a board-certified sleep specialist. They will work with your primary care doctor to provide a diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plan.

Talk to a Telehealth Doctor Today

There’s no reason to suffer from poor sleep quality when treatment is just a quick appointment away. Circle Medical offers comprehensive telehealth services and can provide everything an in-person primary care doctor can from the comfort of home. Our convenient mobile app makes talking to a physician more accessible than ever. No more waiting rooms and no more driving to the clinic.

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Circle Medical offers same-day appointments so you can get your care as soon as possible. We are a fully licensed medical practice with over 200 top-rated providers. Ready to get your care from the comfort of your home? Schedule your appointment with Circle Medical today!

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