What is the best sleep apnea at home test? We’ve reviewed and compared a range of devices on the market to help you decide what the best sleep test is for your unique circumstances.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder where your breathing stops briefly while you sleep. For some people, this can happen every few minutes throughout the duration of your slumber. Unsurprisingly, sleep apnea results in you feeling pretty foggy when you wake up and it can last all day.
Don’t be tempted to dismiss daytime tiredness as an inevitable part of modern life. If you have undiagnosed sleep apnea, it’s important to know that it’s also associated with cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, mood changes and, perhaps most shockingly, erectile dysfunction.
Snoring is one indication that you might have sleep apnea, but not all people who snore suffer from sleep apnea, so a sleep apnea test is needed to confirm it.
In days gone by, sleep apnea testing involved sleeping overnight in a sleep laboratory covered with sensors and wires, which is not exactly a recipe for a good night’s sleep! These days, though an in-laboratory test will still be recommended for some, technology has developed to a point where testing is almost always possible at home.
If you have your sleep tested in a laboratory, you’re in an unknown environment which is far more clinical than a night away in a hotel or AirBnB. You haven’t got your usual surroundings or creature comforts nearby. If you’re someone with a partner, you’ll also be on your own rather than with them next to you. You’ll also be subject to sleep-lab timelines, often demanding an early rise.
At home, you’re in your usual surroundings and can stick to your usual routines. You can head off to sleep when it suits you and wake when you’re ready (or, let’s face it, when the alarm forces you).
When you do a sleep apnea test at home, there’s no need to travel to a laboratory, so there’s less disruption to your evening and daytime routine. You don’t need to be away from loved ones or pets. And, you’re not at the mercy of long wait-times for a laboratory stay.
So, what are your choices for at home sleep apnea testing? Let’s look at the options so you can make a decision about the best at home sleep apnea test for you.
Technology has come a long way in the last decade or so, meaning that there are several options for home-based sleep testing. We compare the pros and cons of each.
Watch-style sleep apnea testing involves wearing a band around the wrist which is connected to a finger oximeter to measure blood oxygen levels and heart rate, and a chest sensor to measure snoring and movement associated with breathing. Its unique technology also measures true sleep time and sleep staging, and can differentiate between obstructive and central sleep apnea.
The WatchPAT is FDA approved with a 98% success rate and has been clinically validated in various groups of people, including those with other medical conditions.
Who would have thought it would be possible to simply wear a ring for a night to find out whether you have sleep apnea. Sleep rings have developed in recent years to measure your oxygen levels overnight. Regular instances of low blood oxygen can be an indication of the breathing pauses that characterise sleep apnea.
Research demonstrates that sleep rings show reasonable accuracy in people without significant other illnesses or medical conditions and for those without using heart rate-affecting medications.
A new sensor is being tested that might be able to diagnose sleep apnea simply through having a small and light device stuck onto your chin. It measures movements associated with the jaw bone, which can be telling about what’s happening with breathing during sleep.
The figure-8 shaped device weighs only three grams, is wireless and uses an app for results. The scientific name for this chin sticker is a ‘mandibular monitor’. Initial trial results show that results are comparable to more traditional methods of assessing sleep apnea.
The ARES home sleep test is a headband style device that you wear across your forehead during the night’s sleep. It is linked to prongs that rest in your nostrils to monitor oxygen saturation.
Research has shown that the ARES demonstrates high sensitivity and specificity when testing for sleep apnea.
Traditionally, sleep testing for sleep apnea has been through polysomnography (PSG). This involves multiple wires and sensors, including a chest strap to measure movement, nostril prongs to measure breathing, a finger-worn oximeter to measure oxygen saturation, and sensors on the legs to assess for other potential sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome. You also have sensors to measure heart rate and eye movement
Polysomnography can be done at home, however, you need to be ‘wired up’ with additional test leads plus inset a nasal cannula (not unlike oxygen tubing) into your nostrils before you leave the clinic to travel home. Better not have plans after! You then need to return the equipment the following day.
TABLE 1: Best Sleep Apnea Tests
If you find you’re gasping for air during the night or have the sensation of your breathing having briefly stopped, that’s a key sign that you should be tested for sleep apnea. But there can be a number of other reasons to consider testing.
It might be your partner complaining that you snore, or that they hear your breathing pause during the night (something that can be scary and annoying in equal measure!). Or, despite seeming to be asleep for around eight hours a night, you might find you’re waking unrefreshed and are tired during the day.
If you fit into one of these categories, you’re far from alone. Research estimates that around one in four men (24%) and 9% of females suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea and these statistics appear to be trending upwards based on emerging research.
Whether your prompt to investigate sleep apnea comes from night or daytime symptoms, it’s well-worth choosing the best at home sleep apnea test for you.
The great news about sleep apnea is that it can be treated. Treatment, such as CPAP (which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is available and effective.
Treatment for sleep apnea ensures you breathe effortlessly through the night, meaning that you avoid the secondary effects of sleep apnea on your health as well as allowing you to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Gu W, Leung L, Kwok KC, Wu I-C, Folz RJ, Chiang AA. Belun Ring Platform: a novel home sleep apnea testing system for assessment of obstructive sleep apnea. J Clin Sleep Med. 2020;16(9):1611–1617.
Kelly JL, Ben Messaoud R, Joyeux-Faure M, et al. Diagnosis of Sleep Apnoea Using a Mandibular Monitor and Machine Learning Analysis: One-Night Agreement Compared to in-Home Polysomnography. Front Neurosci. 2022;16:726880. Published 2022 Mar 15. doi:10.3389/fnins.2022.726880
Westbrook PR, Levendowski DJ, Cvetinovic M, et al. Description and validation of the apnea risk evaluation system: a novel method to diagnose sleep apnea-hypopnea in the home. Chest. 2005;128(4):2166-2175. doi:10.1378/chest.128.4.2166
Pillar G, Berall M, Berry R, et al. Detecting central sleep apnea in adult patients using WatchPAT-a multicenter validation study. Sleep Breath. 2020;24(1):387-398. doi:10.1007/s11325-019-01904-5