Are sleep studies ever done at home or do they have to be done at a sleep center lab?

This question was asked in Santa Monica, California on 04/02/2012.
My husband has trouble sleeping and I have read that getting a sleep study is usually the first step to helping. I think he has sleep apnea because he snores a lot and I think I hear him stop breathing during his sleep. He is a little apprehensive about going into a sleep lab for a sleep study. I have also read that there are at home tests. What are these tests? Do they have to be administered by a sleep doctor?

Doctors Answers (2)

Farhad Sigari, MD, FACS
Answered on: 3/29/2012

Short answer = Yes. The first step would be for him to see a sleep specialist. A sleep specialist can do a full history and physical and evaluate him for sleep apnea. To confirm the diagnoses and before any treatments can be administered, patients need a sleep study. The gold standard sleep study is done in a facility. It gives us the most information about a person's sleep. The sleep labs do their best to make it the experience as comfortable as possible. However, if the in-house sleep apnea is not an option there are a variety different home sleep study devices that can be prescribed by the sleep physician that can work well enough to detect sleep apnea. They don't have to be prescribed by a sleep doctor, but usually a primary care MD will refer to sleep physicians as they are the best to decide which one is better and how to interpret the results.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 3/28/2012

Yes, sleep studies can be done at home although there are some limitations if no technologist is in attendance. If there are no problems keeping the electrodes in place which are attached to the body, some home sleep studies can be reasonably accurate. There are several types of home study devices and most home studies are performed for diagnostic purposes. If sleep apnea is diagnosed, it is preferable to do the CPAP titration study in a sleep lab as this requires careful attention of the sleep technologist to make adjustments to the CPAP masks and pressure settings.