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Provided by John Eickholt, MD

Home sleep apnea tests have become increasingly popular over the past several years. Testing for obstructive sleep apnea in the home can be more convenient and can save money. Unfortunately, home sleep testing is not for everybody and is not for every situation. Home sleep tests are appropriate in selected patients when moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea is suspected and there are no other medical or sleep issues that might preclude their accuracy or safety. Information obtained from home testing tends to be less reliable than traditional sleep tests. Further, they are not as thorough as tests performed in a sleep lab. They are prone to false negatives and cannot tell you that you do not have sleep apnea. Additionally, these tests are sometimes provided by companies not certified in sleep medicine or the interpretations are generated by physicians who are not part of our local community.

Unfortunately, at times, the results of home sleep apnea testing can be misleading. Further, the interpreting physician may not be accountable. If you are being referred for home sleep testing, be sure to ask who will be doing the interpretation and what organization will be carrying out the testing. Be particularly cautious if the testing organization is not certified by the American Association of Sleep Medicine or if the interpreting physician is not board certified in sleep medicine or not available locally to review the results with you. Remember that home sleep apnea tests cannot exclude a diagnosis of sleep apnea nor can they document any other sleep disorder besides obstructive sleep apnea.

In summary, home sleep apnea testing can be a useful and cost-effective shortcut to a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. Just be certain you know the shortcomings and pitfalls of these tests. Finally, if your sleep issues are not resolved for any reason, be sure to pursue further evaluation as there is almost always more that can be done to help.