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In-Lab or Home Sleep Apnea Test: Which Should You Choose?

March 03, 2020

When left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk for a wide range of serious health problems including heart disease, depression, and cancer. Sleep apnea can be difficult for general physicians to diagnose given it happens while you sleep unless you visit a sleep clinic where you can be closely monitored.

What are the differences between an in-lab and at-home sleep apnea test, and which should you choose? Here’s a breakdown of how each test works so you and your doctor can work together to choose an option that brings you closer to a sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment.

What Happens During an In-Lab Sleep Apnea Test?

An in-lab sleep test requires you to stay overnight at a sleep center or hospital where a physician who specializes in sleep medicine can evaluate and monitor certain vitals and behaviors as you sleep. During a sleep study, a doctor will record your brain waves, heart rate, and breathing, as well as track blood oxygen levels and movements of your eyes and limbs. In addition to screening you for sleep apnea, the doctor may also observe your sleep behavior and screen for other conditions such as narcolepsy.

During an in-lab sleep test, the doctor will encourage you to follow your usual nightly bedtime routine, including brushing your teeth and changing into your pajamas. Your routine nighttime behaviors can often help the doctor determine why you may be suffering from certain sleep problems. Sensors will be attached to your body shortly before you fall asleep so the doctor and health team can monitor your sleep behavior. After you wake the next day, a staff member will remove the sensors, and results will be evaluated and provided to you within a few weeks.

How Does an At-Home Sleep Apnea Test Work?

A home sleep apnea test allows you to sleep at home in your own bed while connected to a device that tracks vitals including your breathing, blood oxygen level, and heart rate. Your doctor will provide you with the necessary equipment and home sleep study instructions that allow you to perform the test conveniently at home. After attaching the sensors to your body, you can go to sleep without having to feel anxious or self-conscious about being watched while you sleep. The following morning, you can wake up and resume normal activities as usual.

The Main Differences Between an In-Lab vs Home Sleep Apnea Test

An in-lab sleep study may provide a more complete evaluation of your sleep, since the sleep clinic may use high-grade specialty medical equipment that cannot be transported or used in a home environment. Additionally, an in-lab sleep study allows you to be continuously monitored by one or more staff members who can watch your movements and behaviors to make a proper diagnosis, while an at-home sleep test may only record certain vitals.

An at-home sleep apnea test is usually ideal for people who have no significant medical conditions other than the suspected sleep apnea since a home sleep apnea test usually only checks for sleep apnea and no other conditions. In these instances, a home sleep apnea test may be the most feasible option that allows you to get the best night’s sleep possible despite your sleep apnea symptoms.

Benefits Associated With a Home Sleep Test

A home sleep test offers a countless number of benefits, with the main benefit being the ability to stay at home and sleep more comfortably in your own bed and environment without being watched. A home sleep test also allows you to maintain your daily routine such as going to work, cooking breakfast, and spending time with your family so you don’t have to worry about taking time off work, making childcare arrangements, or waking up in a strange, unfamiliar place.

Results from a home sleep test are usually interpreted within a few weeks, after which your doctor may discuss your available treatment options if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea.


If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, an at-home sleep test can be an easy, convenient way to find out. Lunella allows consumers to take a sleep apnea test from the comfort of their own home and receive a proper data-driven diagnosis from a board-certified sleep physician and a prescription for treatment, if necessary.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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