December 4, 2019/Sleep

Do You Need a Sleep Test? Ask Yourself These 8 Questions First

Learn which type of sleep test is right for you

Elderly man takes nap in afternoon with his dog

As many as 80% of people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are undiagnosed. That means they don’t get the treatment they need to improve their sleep and reduce their risk of serious diseases.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Fortunately, diagnosis is becoming easier as access to in-lab sleep studies improves, says Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, DO, MS, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center. And many patients can benefit from simpler home sleep testing.

Answer these 8 questions

Before asking about a sleep test, answer these questions:

  1. Do you snore loudly (louder than talking or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)?
  2. Do you often feel tired, fatigued or sleepy during the day?
  3. Has anyone observed you stop breathing while you sleep?
  4. Do you have high blood pressure?
  5. Is your body mass index (BMI) more than 35?
  6. Are you over age 50?
  7. Is your neck circumference more than 40 centimeters (15.75 inches)?
  8. Is your gender male?

Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer says, “If you say yes to at least three of eight questions, you have a high probability of OSA.”

How do home sleep tests work?

A “yes” to three of eight questions also means you may be a prime candidate for home sleep testing.

We just want to prove a diagnosis, so we can start treatment. If we can prove it on a home sleep test at a lower cost, we will do so.

Home testing is a stripped-down version of what occurs in a lab-based sleep test. That may sound appealing to all patients, but home testing is just for people with a high probability of OSA who do not have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome or insomnia, or medical disorders, such as cardiac arrhythmias or heart failure.

For a home test, typically you will receive education from a sleep technologist first. Then you will receive a home kit with simple instructions for use. Over the course of a night’s sleep, four sensors will measure the airflow through your mouth and nose, movements in your chest wall, your oxygen levels and your heart rate.

Advertisement

If the testing confirms OSA, you’ll be ready to get the treatment you need.

Lab testing: for complex cases

Home testing isn’t for everybody. It is used to confirm the diagnosis of OSA when suspected clinically, Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer says, because it doesn’t differentiate mild disease from normal sleep.

It also doesn’t work for people whose probability of OSA is unclear, such as those who do not meet many of the criteria in the eight questions above. For these people, as well as those with certain heart and neurological conditions, a sleep test in the lab (polysomnogram) is still the gold standard.

Where home testing measures four parameters, in-lab testing measures up to 20, including brain waves, leg movements, carbon dioxide levels and others. The goal is to offer a more precise diagnosis in more complicated cases.

Many people are nervous about lab tests, but sleep centers try to mimic the home environment as much as possible, with comfortable beds and a hotel-like atmosphere. You’re encouraged to bring everything you need for your usual bedtime routine: reading materials, medications, your favorite pillow.

“Most people won’t sleep like they do at home,” Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer says. “But if we’re able to capture a few hours of sleep, we usually get what we need to make a diagnosis and help patients get treated.”

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

person snoring in bed with partner
November 14, 2023/Sleep
Could You Have Sleep Apnea Without Knowing It?

Ignoring the warning signs could put you at risk for serious health issues

Woman sleeping in bed at night while sleep study is performed.
October 3, 2022/Sleep
What To Expect From a Sleep Study

Studies are customized for each individual, but be sure to bring your favorite pillow

Person sleeping in bed with tape on mouth to stop snoring.
September 7, 2022/Sleep
Mouth Taping: Is It Safe?

Mouth taping isn’t a recommended treatment for sleep apnea or snoring

man in bed with home apnea test
April 10, 2022/Sleep
What Are At-Home Sleep Apnea Tests?

Here’s what to know from a sleep medicine specialist

man tired and yawning at work
November 22, 2021/Sleep
Why Sleep Apnea Can Cause Memory Problems Earlier in Life

This connection is yet another reason to seek help for OSA

Person laying in bed looking concerned
March 30, 2021/Heart Health
I’m Having AFib at Night: Should I Be Worried?

The short answer from a cardiovascular researcher

man asleep wearing CPAP
November 26, 2020/Heart Health
Why Sleep Apnea Raises Your Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Sleeping disorder may increase danger of cardiac event

woman covering ears while husband snores in bed
November 4, 2020/Sleep
Is Your Spouse a Heroic Snorer? 3 Tips to Quieter Sleep

Heroic snoring can be associated with obstructive sleep apnea

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey

Ad