Healthy Living

Home Sleep Test: Is It Worth a Try?

Home Sleep Test: Is It Worth a Try?

Before, a patient who was suffering from sleeping disorders had to sleep in a laboratory overnight with polysomnography or sleep study equipment in order to have a proper diagnosis. But now, it is possible for it to be done at home through a home sleep test or HST. This is used specifically when a patient has obstructive sleep apnea. In simple terms, obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing is repetitively obstructed during sleep. This is due to the muscles of the throat, as well as the tongue, intermittently relaxing and blocking the airway.

A research study was done by The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2011 about the best methods for the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. In the 99 articles that were reviewed, HST’s diagnosis is as accurate as a laboratory-conducted sleep study under certain conditions.

A recent study concluded that HSTs are as good as the sleep tests done in a laboratory. Nevertheless, it is not yet final if the findings can be applied in actual settings and to all kinds of patients. There were 406 sleep clinic patients with suspected sleep apnea from 7 sleep centers in Australia who participated in the study. The goal was to compare the results and the advice of physicians from patients who used HST and polysomnography.

HST Devices

HST equipment are mostly as big as a telephone, so it is compact. It measures the airflow in the nose and mouth through a wire that looks like an oxygen cannula. This wire is attached to the patient’s nose and mouth. The effort in respiration is also measured through the elastic bands that are placed on the chest and abdomen. Lastly, oxygen blood levels are determined using the oximeter finger probe, which emits a light that is red in color. It is attached to the tip of the finger. HST is used for 1 to 3 nights.

Limitations of HST

HST is not recommended for those who are not high risk for obstructive sleep apnea, who are suspected of another sleep disorder, and who have pulmonary issues like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and neuromuscular or neurodegenerative diseases and congestive heart failure. The physician will ask these patients to have a sleep test conducted in a laboratory since this kind of study gives a comprehensive assessment of their sleep. For patients with behavioral problems, they will have to do it in a sleep laboratory as well because there is a danger of hurting themselves with the wires and sensors of HSTs.

Process of HST

There are no special precautionary measures to be taken before the sleep test. However, it is good to remember these things on the day of the test:

  • Patients should perform their daily routine.
  • Patients should avoid taking a nap.
  • Patients should not use anything with caffeine after lunchtime.
  • Patients should inform their sleep physician if they have maintenance medication. Their doctor might ask them to stop taking this medication temporarily in order to take the test.