Testing.com is fully supported by readers. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. You can read more about how we make money here.

  • Also Known As:
  • Home Sleep Apnea Test
  • HSAT
Medically Reviewed by Expert Board

This page was fact checked by our expert Medical Review Board for accuracy and objectivity. Read more about our editorial policy and review process.

.
This article was last modified on

Test Quick Guide

An at-home sleep apnea test evaluates whether your breathing is normal while you sleep. Although not as detailed as an in-clinic sleep study, at-home sleep apnea testing can be used to diagnose or monitor obstructive sleep apnea.

At-home testing is available when prescribed by a doctor. A trained technologist may explain how to use the testing device, and results from a home sleep apnea test are best interpreted by a doctor or sleep specialist.

About the Test

Purpose of the test

The purpose of at-home sleep apnea tests is to diagnose or monitor obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder that causes repeated disruptions in breathing during sleep.

Sleep apnea frequently leads to daytime drowsiness and has been linked to other health problems including cardiovascular disease. In OSA, these disruptions occur because the airway in the upper throat becomes blocked.

A diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea requires testing that shows a certain number of breathing disturbances during sleep. An in-clinic sleep study, known as a polysomnogram, is the most common way that sleep apnea is diagnosed, but home sleep apnea tests can be used for certain patients.

At-home testing can also be used to monitor how a patient’s sleep apnea changes over time. For people who are being treated for OSA, testing can provide data about whether breathing during sleep has improved.

What does the test measure?

Home sleep apnea tests include multiple sensors to monitor various aspects of your sleep. Because sleep apnea is a disorder of breathing, these tests are designed to assess respiration and oxygen levels.

There are different types of devices for home sleep apnea testing, and the exact measurements that are taken can vary based on the kinds of sensors included in a specific device or test kit.

Experts in sleep medicine recommend that at-home sleep apnea testing include at least the following three measurements, recorded for a minimum of four hours:

  • Nasal pressure
  • Movement of the chest and abdomen, which reflects breathing
  • Oximetry, which is the level of oxygen in the blood

Another collection of three measurements that are considered to meet a minimum standard for at-home sleep apnea testing includes:

  • Peripheral arterial tone (PAT), which is a finger-based sensor that tracks pulsations in the blood
  • Oximetry
  • Actigraphy, which tracks movement of the body

When these minimum requirements are met, the at-home test can produce a summary measurement to help detect sleep apnea. Examples of summary measurements that can be provided by at-home devices include:

  • Apnea hypopnea index (AHI): The AHI is the number of two types of breathing disturbances detected per hour of sleep. Determining AHI requires knowing when you are actually sleeping, measured by a sensor for brain waves known as electroencephalography (EEG) that is not included in many at-home tests.
  • Respiratory disturbance index (RDI) or respiratory event index (REI): The RDI or REI is the number of breathing disruptions per hour of device recording. RDI is used instead of AHI with devices that cannot distinguish whether you are sleeping during the test.
  • pAHI or pRDI: These summary measures are the same as AHI or RDI, but the “p” denotes that respiratory disruptions were calculated by a PAT device worn on the finger rather than by direct measurement of nasal pressure and muscle movement.

Unvalidated at-home sleep apnea tests

It is important to know that not all products marketed as sleep apnea tests are proven to accurately detect obstructive sleep apnea.

As described in the previous section, experts at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have identified a minimum number of sensors and types of measurements that should be included in any at-home sleep apnea test. Products that involve two or fewer sensors or that lack the proper measurements, such as some digital devices and many smartphone apps, are not able to diagnose sleep apnea.

Talk with your doctor before testing in order to make sure that you only use a validated test for sleep apnea.

When should I get an at-home sleep apnea test?

Home sleep apnea tests should only be used when recommended by a doctor. This helps to ensure that testing is appropriate in your situation and that you have the proper equipment and instructions to obtain a valid test result.

Whether in-clinic or at-home, sleep apnea testing is generally only prescribed if you have symptoms that are consistent with obstructive sleep apnea.

A hallmark symptom of sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness that occurs on most days. Other common OSA symptoms include regular and loud snoring as well as gasping or choking during sleep. Because they occur while a person is asleep, these symptoms may first be detected by a bed partner or family member.

Sleep apnea tests may also be prescribed if you have risk factors or health conditions that may be caused by OSA. To identify these factors, your doctor may conduct a physical examination and a review of your overall health. Potential risk factors include:

  • Enlarged tongue or tonsils or other anatomical features that contribute to narrowing of the airway
  • Obesity
  • Older age
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Family history of obstructive sleep apnea
  • Use of certain drugs

After reviewing signs, symptoms, and risk factors, your doctor can help determine if sleep apnea testing is appropriate in your situation. At that point, they can address whether in-clinic or at-home testing better fits your situation.

In addition to diagnosing sleep apnea, certain home testing devices may be used to measure your response to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

Who should not have at-home sleep apnea testing?

While home sleep apnea testing is becoming increasingly common, it is not recommended in a number of situations, including:

  • For children: To date, home sleep apnea testing has not been validated for use in infants or children.
  • If you may have mild OSA: At-home tests have greater potential to underestimate the severity of sleep apnea. This means that at-home testing can fail to detect mild cases. As a result, at-home sleep apnea testing is reserved for people who are more likely to have moderate or severe OSA.
  • If you have certain medical conditions: Experts recommend that people with some coexisting conditions—including many cardiovascular or lung diseases—have testing in a clinic instead of at home.
  • If you have a high-risk job: Some people’s work involves heightened risk from daytime sleepiness. For these patients, accurately detecting OSA is essential, so in-clinic testing is recommended. Examples of “mission-critical” workers include professional drivers, pilots, and first responders.
  • If you may have another sleep disorder: At-home sleep apnea tests are unable to identify other sleep disorders that can be detected during in-clinic testing.

Your doctor is in the best position to review your specific situation and address whether you meet the criteria for taking an at-home sleep apnea test.

Benefits and Downsides of At-Home Sleep Apnea Testing

Both in-clinic sleep studies and at-home sleep apnea testing can be used to diagnose and assess obstructive sleep apnea. When compared with traditional sleep studies, at-home testing has a number of potential benefits and downsides.

Some of the main possible benefits of at-home sleep apnea tests include:

  • Convenience: In-clinic sleep studies can be very inconvenient. Scheduling the test and actually spending the night in the sleep clinic can be logistically challenging, especially for people who don’t live near a clinic. An at-home test can make the testing process simpler and more convenient.
  • Comfort: Most people are far more comfortable taking a test at home in their own bed instead of having to go to an unfamiliar sleep setting for overnight testing.
  • Lower cost: The overall cost of at-home testing is generally much lower than in-clinic sleep studies, although the exact amount you pay can depend on whether you have health insurance that covers sleep apnea testing.
  • Can collect data over multiple nights: At-home studies can be done for just one night or over several sleep periods. In contrast, in-clinic studies are usually just one night. This can be important because it is possible for the severity of sleep apnea to vary from night-to-night.

The key possible downsides of at-home sleep apnea testing include:

  • May underestimate or fail to detect OSA: At-home testing is not as precise as an in-clinic sleep study and has a tendency to understate the extent of sleep apnea. In some cases, this can mean failing to diagnose mild cases.
  • Provides less information: At-home tests have fewer sensors and recording devices, which means that there’s less information about the nature of your sleep. This affects the test’s precision and prevents at-home tests from detecting other types of sleep disorders.
  • Not an option for all patients: At-home sleep apnea testing is not recommended for children, people with some coexisting health problems, people who have high-risk jobs, or anyone suspected to only have mild sleep apnea.
  • May require follow-up testing: If your doctor strongly believes that you have sleep apnea but your at-home test is negative, it is common for a follow-up test in a sleep clinic to be recommended.
  • Risk of device failure: Depending on the quality and design of the at-home device, there is a risk of it not functioning properly, which prevents collection of data about your breathing during sleep.
  • No test oversight: In a sleep clinic, you are observed by a technologist throughout the test, allowing for quick remedies if a sensor falls off your body or if any other problems arise. With an at-home test, there is a risk of user error in setting up the test, and there’s no technologist to address potential problems.

Types of At-Home Tests

There are a wide variety of brands and models of home sleep apnea tests. In many cases, your doctor or a sleep specialist will recommend a specific device, and a technologist will help set it up or provide instructions on how to use it.

The main way that different at-home sleep apnea tests are distinguished is by the sensors included in the device. Experts recommend certain minimum sensors be included in any testing device. For example, devices with two or fewer measurements generally are not accurate enough to reliably diagnose obstructive sleep apnea.

In most cases, you will use the device for one or more nights and then return it either by mail or by taking it back to your doctor’s office. You will receive directions for how to use the device, how many nights to record your sleep, and how to report the data.

It is important to follow these instructions carefully. This includes making sure to apply and wear the sensors properly and to use them for the entire period of time that is recommended.

The following sections describe several top picks for at-home sleep apnea tests:

 

Best Overall
Lofta – Home Sleep Apnea Test
Price: $349
Sensor measurements: Peripheral arterial tone (PAT), Heart rate, Oximetry, Actigraphy, Body position, Snoring, Chest motion
Results timeline: Within minutes

The Lofta Home Sleep Apnea Test uses the WatchPAT One technology to provide a one-night assessment of your breathing to help determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea.

Before sending you the test, a sleep coach from Lofta will contact you and direct you to an online sleep assessment. Lofta will share this information with a doctor, who decides whether you meet the criteria for at-home testing.

If you qualify for the test, the test kit will be sent to your home. The WatchPAT One kit includes a wrist-worn device, a chest sensor, and a finger probe. Taking the test requires a WiFi connection and installing a connected app on your smartphone.

Before bed, follow instructions from the app to apply the sensors to your body. During the night, you must keep your phone plugged in and within five feet. The device records information about changes in blood flow, heart rate, oxygen levels, body movement and position, and snoring.

The next morning, you use the app to end the test. The data from the device is downloaded within minutes and then uploaded to the cloud so that it can be reviewed by a doctor. You will receive a test report and have the opportunity to discuss the results with a Lofta sleep coach.

The cost of the test includes shipping of the device to your home. After you take the test, no return shipping is required, and you can simply dispose of the device.

 

Best Non-Disposable Test Kit
iSleep – Home Sleep Apnea Test
Price: $299
Sensor measurements: Peripheral arterial tone (PAT), Heart rate, Oximetry, Actigraphy, Body position, Snoring, Chest motion
Results timeline: Within minutes

The WatchPAT 300 Home Sleep Apnea Test is a non-disposable test kit using the WatchPAT 300 device. This technology uses multiple sensors in order to detect obstructive sleep apnea.

After you order the test, iSleep will send you a sleep screening questionnaire and a rental agreement for the device. Once those are filled out, and if you meet the criteria, the company can authorize the test. After authorization, the test device is sent to you with free two-day shipping.

Taking the test involves wearing a watch-like device on your wrist along with a sensor on your fingertip and another on your chest. These sensors track your heart rate and blood flow, snoring, oxygen levels, body position, and movement.

These sensors are worn during the course of one night. The next day, place the device into a prepaid envelope so that it can be sent back to iSleep. Once it arrives, professionals trained in sleep medicine will download and review the data from the WatchPAT 300 device. You will receive a detailed test report within 48 hours after iSleep receives the device.

 

Best If You Already Have a Prescription
CPAP America – Home Sleep Apnea Test
Price: $249
Sensor measurements: Respiratory effort, Nasal airflow, Heart rate, Oximetry, Snoring
Results timeline: Within several business days

The Home Sleep Apnea Test from CPAP America uses the ApneaLink Plus device from ResMed. Wearing this device while you sleep can help identify abnormal breathing and obstructive sleep apnea.

Before CPAP America can send you the test kit, you must provide a copy of your test prescription. Once the company has verified your prescription, they will ship the at-home testing device to you for free along with instructions for using the device correctly.

The sensors in the ApneaLink Plus test include a pulse oximeter worn on your finger that measures your oxygen levels and heart rate, a nasal cannula to measure airflow through your nose, and a chest belt that tracks your chest movement. The device also records sounds to assess snoring.

The morning after your test, remove the sensors and package the device to return to CPAP America with the prepaid shipping label. The data is then downloaded from the device so that it can be evaluated by a certified sleep physician.

After a doctor has reviewed your test findings, CPAP America will call you to provide results.  They will also mail you a copy of the formal test report.

Interpreting At-Home Test Results

The interpretation of a home sleep apnea test is done by a doctor or sleep specialist. Although the device may provide preliminary results, the most in-depth interpretation occurs after your doctor reviews the results from your at-home test.

A key element of the test report is the apnea hypopnea index (AHI) or the respiratory disturbance or respiratory event index (RDI or REI). These summary measurements are an indication of the number of breathing-related sleep disruptions that you experienced per hour during sleep or during the total time of the test.

The doctor evaluates your symptoms along with your test results to decide whether you have obstructive sleep apnea. A diagnosis of OSA requires an AHI over 5 with symptoms or an AHI over 15 with or without symptoms.

In general, the following results are used to categorize obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Normal: AHI under 5
  • Mild sleep apnea: AHI of 5 to 14
  • Moderate sleep apnea: AHI of 15 to 30
  • Severe sleep apnea: AHI of 31 or more

Depending on the sensors used in your test, your test report may provide a list of other measurements and findings. If there were any device or sensor failures, you may receive a test report with an invalid or inconclusive result.

Are test results accurate?

For many patients, at-home sleep apnea tests can accurately measure breathing disruptions during sleep and can help diagnose sleep apnea. However, several different factors can affect test accuracy including:

  • Match with patient situation: At-home tests are only designed for use by people who meet specific criteria. Home testing cannot be counted on for accurate results when used by patients who don’t match those criteria.
  • Number and type of sensors: Having enough sensors that take the appropriate set of measurements is essential to being able to confidently interpret the test results.
  • Quality of test instructions: In order to successfully take a home sleep apnea test, it’s important to have clear directions that are easy to follow.
  • Proper test procedure: The data from the test can only be accurate if the test instructions are followed closely. Failure to observe the specific test procedure can invalidate the result.

Do I need follow-up tests?

Follow-up tests may be necessary after an at-home sleep apnea test.

If you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea after an at-home test, you will usually need follow-up to customize your OSA treatment. In most cases, this means using a machine known as a positive airway pressure (PAP) device that you wear at night. The PAP device provides a stream of air through your nose or mouth to keep your airway unobstructed during sleep. You may need to stay overnight in a sleep clinic for PAP titration, which is the process of calibrating a PAP device to fit your breathing.

If you have a negative result on an at-home sleep apnea test, your doctor may recommend having an in-clinic sleep study to confirm the result. This kind of follow-up is most common if you have symptoms of OSA and your doctor believes that the at-home test may have been inaccurate.

Questions for your doctor after at-home sleep apnea testing

If you have taken an at-home sleep apnea test, the following questions may help as you review the results with your doctor:

  • Did my at-home test show that I have sleep apnea? If so, was it mild, moderate, or severe?
  • Do you recommend any follow-up testing?
  • Do I need treatment for sleep apnea? What are my treatment options?

Related Tests

Comparing at-home and in-clinic sleep apnea testing

Polysomnography, which is sleep testing conducted in a specialized clinic, is considered to be the gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnea and many other sleep disorders. This testing includes a broad range of sensors and measurements and involves a technologist who monitors you during the entire study to ensure that data is being properly collected.

These features make in-clinic sleep studies more accurate than at-home tests. Accordingly, in-clinic testing is recommended for specific patients who can benefit from more robust testing.

While polysomnography provides more detailed information, it is frequently inconvenient and more costly than at-home testing. For many patients, home sleep apnea testing is reliable for detecting breathing problems without needing to spend a night in a sleep clinic. In this way, at-home tests can often be done more quickly and comfortably.

The decision about whether to have in-clinic or at-home testing is based on many individual factors, and a doctor or sleep specialist can review the benefits and downsides of each approach for any specific patient.

View Sources

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Pediatric sleep apnea. Updated July 3, 2019. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007660.htm

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Central sleep apnea. Updated July 15, 2019. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003997.htm

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Obstructive sleep apnea – adults. Updated January 29, 2020. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000811.htm

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Polysomnography. Updated January 29, 2020. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003932.htm

Brown LK, Lee W. Titration of positive airway pressure therapy for adults with obstructive sleep apnea. In: Collop N, ed. UpToDate. Updated June 28, 2021. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/titration-of-positive-airway-pressure-therapy-for-adults-with-obstructive-sleep-apnea

Chahine E. At-home sleep tests and studies. Updated May 6, 2021. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/at-home-sleep-tests

Collop N. Home sleep apnea testing for obstructive sleep apnea in adults. In: Harding SM, ed. UpToDate. Updated July 21, 2021. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/home-sleep-apnea-testing-for-obstructive-sleep-apnea-in-adults

Donovan LM, Kapur VK. Prevalence and characteristics of central compared to obstructive sleep apnea: Analyses from the sleep heart health study cohort. Sleep. 2016;39(7):1353-1359. Published 2016 Jul 1. doi:10.5665/sleep.5962

Fry A. Sleep studies. Updated June 23, 2021. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-studies

Kapur VK, Auckley DH, Chowdhuri S, et al. Clinical practice guideline for diagnostic testing for adult obstructive sleep apnea: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine clinical practice guideline. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(3):479-504. Published 2017 Mar 15. doi:10.5664/jcsm.6506

Kline LR. Clinical presentation and diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea in adults. In: Collop N, ed. UpToDate. Updated June 3, 2021. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-presentation-and-diagnosis-of-obstructive-sleep-apnea-in-adults

Kramer NR, Millman RP. Overview of polysomnography in adults. In: Harding SM, ed. UpToDate. Updated December 14, 2020. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-polysomnography-in-adults

Paruthi S. Evaluation of suspected obstructive sleep apnea in children. In: Chervin RD, ed. UpToDate. Updated February 18, 2021. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/evaluation-of-suspected-obstructive-sleep-apnea-in-children

Pittman SD, Ayas NT, MacDonald MM, Malhotra A, Fogel RB, White DP. Using a wrist-worn device based on peripheral arterial tonometry to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea: in-laboratory and ambulatory validation. Sleep. 2004;27(5):923-933. doi:10.1093/sleep/27.5.923

Rosen IM, Kirsch DB, Carden KA, et al. Clinical use of a home sleep apnea test: An updated American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(12):2075-2077. Published 2018 Dec 15. doi:10.5664/jcsm.7540

Schwab RJ. Approach to the patient with a sleep or wakefulness disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated June 2020. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/approach-to-the-patient-with-a-sleep-or-wakefulness-disorder

Schulman D. Polysomnography in the evaluation of sleep-disordered breathing in adults. In: Harding SM, ed. UpToDate. Updated March 19, 2020. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/polysomnography-in-the-evaluation-of-sleep-disordered-breathing-in-adults

Strohl KP. Obstructive sleep apnea. Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated September 2020. Accessed August 10, 2021. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/sleep-apnea/obstructive-sleep-apnea

Suni E. Central sleep apnea. Updated July 9, 2021. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-apnea/central-sleep-apnea

Tan HL, Kheirandish-Gozal L, Gozal D. Pediatric home sleep apnea testing: Slowly getting there! Chest. 2015;148(6):1382-1395. doi:10.1378/chest.15-1365

UpToDate. Patient education: What is a sleep study (the basics). Updated August 18, 2021. Accessed August 10, 2021.  https://www.uptodate.com/contents/what-is-a-sleep-study-the-basics

US Preventive Services Task Force, Bibbins-Domingo K, Grossman DC, et al. Screening for obstructive sleep apnea in adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2017;317(4):407-414. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.20325

Ask a Laboratory Scientist

Ask a Laboratory Scientist

This form enables patients to ask specific questions about lab tests. Your questions will be answered by a laboratory scientist as part of a voluntary service provided by one of our partners, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. Please allow 2-3 business days for an email response from one of the volunteers on the Consumer Information Response Team.

Send Us Your Question