Which is better: in-home or at-lab sleep tests for diagnosing sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a rest disorder that can result in interrupted breathing. Those with this health problem report halts in inhaling and exhaling air in the middle of the night. This condition is not ideal because obstructed breathing can mean a limited oxygen supply to the brain. Since this situation can be life-threatening, it is vital to diagnose sleep apnea asap. For this purpose, there are two methods, the in-home test and the at-lab study. To know which of them is better, read further!

In-home tests vs at-lab sleep study

In-lab sleep study: 

The in-lab sleep studies are conducted to identify many sleep disorders, including apnea. Here, the patient is provided with a private room to feel comfortable. It is much like a hotel room where you can bring your pyjamas, brush, or anything you might need to sleep in. The goal is to make you feel relaxed so that you can rest well. Here are a few things that will be recorded when you sleep:

  • Sleep cycle
  • Heart rate
  • Sleep position
  • Limb movements
  • Oxygen levels
  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing lapses 
  • Snoring

Pros and cons of in-lab sleep study

Advantages:

  • Accurate: The in-lab sleep test offers accurate results. It is considered the gold standard for diagnosing if someone is suffering from sleep apnea.
  • Split-night study: These studies allow for the diagnosis and treatment in a single night. 
  • Professions: People who may put their and other people’s lives at risk if they fall asleep on the job are recommended to undertake in-lab tests. These people include taxi, bus, and ride-share drivers.
  • Sleep disorders: People with other health problems like heart conditions or lung diseases should also go for an in-lab study.

Disadvantages:

  • Costlier: Testing yourself at the lab will cost significantly more than in-home tests.
  • Less accessible: You require transportation to and from the lab for this test. Thus, it can be time-consuming and costly.
  • Long wait time: Depending upon the bookings, you may have to wait for weeks before your turn finally comes.
  • Convenient: Going to a sleep lab will disrupt your work and schedule. It may even interfere with your daily routine and responsibilities.

At-home sleep test: 

This is a simplified version of in-lab tests where no technician is called. Instead, the doctor prescribes a portable monitor kit you can take home. With it, you will also get specific instructions on setting up the device. Then, you need to follow them to hook up the monitoring sensors correctly. 

Pros and cons of in-home tests

Advantages:

  • Convenience: You don’t need to step outside the house to determine whether you have sleep apnea. This ensures convenience.
  • Accessible: For people who live far from sleep centres, home sleep studies are accessible and easy.
  • Less Costly: Getting results through in-home tests means more savings.

Disadvantages:

  • Less Accurate: Without the presence of a technician, the in-home tests are not as accurate as lab tests.
  • Lab test: Regardless of whether you get a positive or negative result, your doctor may recommend you get an in-lab sleep test after an in-home test.
  • Sleep disorders: The in-home tests do not help identify other sleep disorders like narcolepsy.

So, these are a few advantages and disadvantages of in-home and at-lab tests.

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