Home Sleep Test versus In-Lab Sleep Study, Which is the Best Option For You?

in-lab sleep study image

Home Sleep Test versus In-Lab Sleep Study

What do you do after your physician or dentist evaluates you as someone who should be studied for sleep apnea or another sleep related disorder? Get a sleep study. But which kind is right for you? Let’s take a look at the differences in the studies and weigh the pros and cons.

In-Lab Sleep Study

For an In-Lab Sleep Study, the patient stays overnight at a sleep center or hospital. The sleep studies administered there records brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, heart rate, breath, eye and leg movements. A sleep specialist then analyzes the results and determines if you have a sleep disorder. There are a few types of sleep studies that can be done In-Lab:

  • Diagnostic overnight Polysomnogram (PSG): This study monitors breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, heart beat rhythms as well as limb movements. The test monitors sleep stages and cycles. This study helps determine if patients are suffering from disorders like sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, narcolepsy, REM sleep behavior disorder, and helps identify unusual sleep behaviors, and unexplained chronic insomnia.
  • Diagnostic daytime multiple sleep latency test (MSLT): The MSLT test measures sleep latency, which is the time that elapses from the beginning of a daytime nap period to the first signs of sleep. This test is used primarily to diagnose narcolepsy. The test monitors brain waves, muscle activity, and eye movement.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) Titration: After sleep apnea has been discovered, patients try a night or partial night with CPAP treatment to determine the necessary CPAP pressure to stop the apneas from occurring and regulate breathe.

Typically, a PSG is conducted, and the results will determine whether the patient needs to take the other tests listed.

The idea of sleeping at a sleep center or a hospital may create anxiety and deter a patient from proceeding with a sleep study.  Lucky for them (or you), sleep studies can be conducted in the home.

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Home Sleep Test

Insurance carriers push for home sleep studies because in comparison to in-lab PSG, they are more cost efficient. Medicare now approves in home sleep studies and since most private insurers adopt their practices, most insurers currently accept home sleep studies in combination with a clinical evaluation, as an acceptable -if not preferred method of diagnosis.

Home sleep tests are conducted in the patients’ home after a clinical evaluation determines a sleep test is necessary. The patients’ family physician, dentist, and most other medical practitioners can do a clinical evaluation. Then the patient either receives the portable monitoring device in the mail, or picks one up from the designated sleep clinic or hospital. The portable monitoring device used for the home sleep test measures oxygen saturation, heart rate, airflow, effort, as well as snoring and sleep position.

The main difference between an in-lab sleep study and home sleep test, is that an in-lab sleep study will additionally measure leg movements, sleep time, and brain waves. However most often, the deciding factor between the two options is sleeping at home comfortably versus sleeping at an unfamiliar sleep center. When the sleep disorder in question is likely sleep apnea, both options suffice, although the in-lab study will gauge the severity of the sleep apnea more precisely than the home sleep test.



  1. Mayo Clinic
  2. American Academy of Sleep Medicine
  3. America Sleep Apnea Association 
  4. Web MD

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