Sleep apnea sleep study: What to expect plus how it’s done

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If you suspect that you might be suffering from sleep apnea you need to take a sleep study.

But before you do, I know that you have a lot of questions that you’ll love to get answered. Some that we have been asked before include:

  1. How is a sleep apnea test done?
  2. What should you expect during the test?
  3. How does a sleep study work
  4. What kind of doctor treats sleep apnea, and (believe it or not…)
  5. How to fail a sleep apnea test 🙂

We’ll try to answer most of these questions in this piece, but in case we don’t, feel free to ask us on the comments section below.

What is a sleep apnea test?

The sleep study is known as a polysomnogram (PSG). Actually, there are two kinds; a home based test (HST) and an in clinic study.

As the names suggests, the HST is carried out from home while the in clinic study is conducted from a hospital. They all involve connecting you to devices which record the necessary parameters which will enable the physicians know whether or not you have sleep apnea.

Both studies test for all the types of sleep apnea. This article will shed light on both tests so that you can decide which to take.

Home sleep study (HST)

The first step in acquiring a home sleep test is visiting a sleep physician. If he/she suspects you to have sleep apnea he will order the sleep study kit from the various companies.

The companies include Novasom, VirtuOx, Blackstone and ares.

Upon receiving the order, the company will deliver the kit to you along with instructions on how to use it.

All kits comprise of 3 essential components; elastic belt bands, an oxymeter finger probe and a nasal tube.

The nasal tube is taped by the nose and mouth and is used to record nasal and oral airflow. The elastic bands are placed across the chest and abdomen so as to record the respiratory effort.

The oxymeter finger prober is clip like and attaches to the finger tip. It records the oxygen levels in your blood as you sleep.

The device is comfortable to sleep in and easy to fit. When you wake up, simply remove it and proceed with your day’s activities.

Depending on your physician’s instructions, you may have to wear the device 1-3 nights. Upon the completion of the stipulated time, send the device back to the company.

The company’s physicians will evaluate the data recorded by the device and send the results to your physician as well as the treatment recommendation.

Upon receiving these results, your physician calls you in to discuss them.

Advantages of HST

  1. Comfort

The HST makes it possible for you to sleep in the comfort of your bed and in familiar surroundings. This is particularly helpful especially if you have trouble falling asleep in unfamiliar territory.

It also allows you to sleep in your normal position.

2. Accessible and convenient

If you are too busy to schedule an appointment with a clinic, the HST comes in handy as you conduct it from home. It is also convenient for people who are immobile such as the elderly or those suffering from chronic diseases such as heart failure.

3. Cost friendly

You don’t have to spend a fortune for this test, most cost $200-$350. That is pretty affordable!

4. Simple to use

The device is very easy to fit and it also comes with a manual to take you through every step.

In clinic sleep study

This kind of study is done at a sleep disorders unit within a hospital or at a sleep center. It could also be carried out in a hotel.

The first step is to book an appointment. The waiting period is usually 2-4 weeks so some patience is required.

On the day of the appointment;

  • Try as much as possible to follow your regular routine
  • Avoid napping
  • Avoid caffeine after lunch

If you work on night shifts you can have the test carried out during the day.

When you go to the sleep center bring along your pajamas, reading materials (if you read before bed), a toothpaste and toothbrush as well as a change of clothes for the morning.

The room is designed to be as comfortable as possible. It comes equipped with a bathroom if you need to use it. It also has a TV which you could watch before falling asleep.

When you arrive, the physician attaches sensors to your body. The sensors are either glued or taped to you so make sure to inform him/her if you are allergic to any adhesives.

A pre-sleep questionnaire may also be given for you to fill.

The wires that connect you to the machines are long enough to enable you sleep in any position and also twist and turn as you like.

The parameters measured are;

  • Brain waves
  • Chin muscle activity
  • Heart rate
  • Oxygen levels
  • Leg movement

When you are ready to sleep, the lights will be switched off. A low light camera enables the physician to monitor you in your sleep from an adjacent room.

If the need to use the bathroom arises, simply tell the physician and he will unhook you from the machines then connect you back afterwards.

One night is usually sufficient to come up with conclusive results. You need not even spend the entire night, a couple of hours are enough.

In the morning, a post-sleep questionnaire could also be given.

If you are confirmed to have sleep apnea, a second night at the center is required. This is mostly to ascertain the right pressure levels for your PAP therapy.

How much does a sleep study cost?

How much does a sleep apnea test cost

A lot of sleep technicians will not publicly disclose how much the test will cost you, until they slap you with the bill.

Polysomnograms (tests performed in the clinic) usually cost betweem $2500-$4500.

If you are overly concerned about the cost, I’d recommend that you call the clinic in advance and find out how much they charge.

Advantages of in clinic study


An in clinic study gathers any and every parameter required in the diagnosis of sleep apnea and any other sleep disorder.


It is more accurate than the HST due to the many parameters it records. The presence of a physician who monitors you in your sleep also contributes to it being more accurate.


An in clinic study is suitable for a wide range of sleeping disorders and is also suitable for all patients, even children.

The only drawback to this study is that it is quite costly. It will cost you as much as $2000 or even more depending on your clinic choice.


Which study should I choose?

The choice of study depends on you. Each has advantages over the other as you have seen. However, the factors to consider include;

  • Your schedule
  • Your financial capabilities
  • Your doctor’s advice

Will my insurance pay for my sleep study?

Yes. Most insurance cover sleep studies. However, some may require you to take the HST (which the pay for) before you take the in clinic test.

What are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea?

It is possible for sleep apnea to go unnoticed or be mistaken for just snoring. This is because memory of apnea events happening are lost when you wake up.

If you experience these symptoms, consult with your doctor;

  • Morning headaches
  • Daytime sleepiness even when driving
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Decrease in sex drive


Sleep studies are the only way to tell whether you have sleep apnea or not. Now that you know quite a bit about each, it is up to you to decide which one best suits you.

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