Traditionally, if your doctor recommends a sleep study, that means putting your life on hold for a night and sleeping in a sleep lab. This leads to problems not only because you’re sleeping in an unfamiliar environment but also because of the cost. A night at a sleep lab can cost up to $1,300. Insurance companies, however, are pushing more for an in-home version of a sleep test that in many cases may provide the data needed by doctors.
In-home test costs up to $400, and are used primarily to test for obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where the upper airway is obstructed, causing breathing to halt. It’s one of the most common sleep disorders, affecting up to 7 percent of adult men, up to 5 percent of adult women and similar percentages of children. Untreated sleep apnea is linked to problems as serious as heart attack and stroke.
The in-home test equipment varies, but generally it measures things such as air flow, the effort people make during respiration and oxygen saturation. The kits are small and portable. Patients place an air-flow sensor under their nose, put on a belt and attach a clip to their finger before going to sleep. During the night, data is recorded for analysis.
While some doctors find the data from in-home tests acceptable, others are skeptical. The primary complaint is that the home tests aren’t as thorough as lab testing. While the in-home tests still make up a small percentage of overnight sleep tests, the percentage is growing as insurance companies try to cut costs.