Apnea Home Test: At-home Diagnostic Test


At-home diagnostic tests for sleep apnea are done at home and assess a range of factors to determine if you have sleep apnea.

There are two kinds of at-home diagnostic tests.

The first type of at-home diagnostic test consists of a bedside monitoring device that is attached to sensors for the chest, breath, and finger. These apnea home tests collect sleep data like respiratory events (apneas and hypopneas), snoring intensity, blood oxygen saturation, pulse rate and respiratory effort.

Another type of apnea home test is oximetry. This is a clamp worn on a finger and detects levels of oxygen in blood. While it does not collect breathing data, it is perhaps better at detecting low blood oxygen, which is a critical component in diagnosis of apnea.

Like other at-home diagnostic tests, pulse oximetry is prescribed by a doctor or through an “online’ doctor. Depending on your resourcefulness, it may be possible to get around the prescription requirement!

Home oximetry devices range from simple to complex. The simplest is about $49.00, is worn on the finger, and will display blood oxygen readings. Waking up every minute or so to look at the reading doesn’t do much good! More sophisticated recording devices store data in a memory card and are much more expensive.

To avoid the cost altogether, it is entirely possible for your doctor to prescribe the use of a home pulse oximeter. Or you can get one from a home health appliance outlet, which provides them for free. The device is loaned overnight and results are electronically transmitted to your doctor.

At-home diagnostic tests for sleep apnea are available online from numerous companies. While primarily marketed to health care providers as a method for screening, these companies do market products to individuals. This kind of apnea home test does require getting a doctor involved. However, several companies include (for a fee) an online doctor who, after assessing your situation, will prescribe and interpret your findings.

Who Should Take an Apnea Home Test?

You should take an apnea home test if you you’ve already done an online test for apnea, and it strongly suggested that you have moderate to severe sleep apnea.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also recommends you fit the following criteria before considering an apnea home test:

  • You have no other major medical problems, such as cystic fibrosis, active asthma, or congestive heart failure
  • You don’t have a sleep disorder other than sleep apnea
  • You can’t take a sleep study in a sleep lab

The purpose of home testing is not to replace a medical setting sleep study, but to alleviate backlogs in sleep study testing centers. Together with an online test for apnea, you and your doctor can decide how to proceed.

Keep in mind that a positive finding on a home test by itself is not accepted by insurance companies for a referral to purchase equipment such as a CPAP. In that way, an apnea home test is like a pregnancy test. It provides the user with a good indication a condition exists. Most importantly, they are far less expensive than a full sleep study. Like pregnancy tests, they are a low cost first step in diagnosis.

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