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Since you’re reading this article right now, you must be curious about sleep studies.
You may have decided you need to undergo a sleep study because your partner complains about your snoring. Maybe you read my book and realized you have some of the signs of interrupted sleep that show up in the mouth. Or maybe you suspect that you’re not getting the best sleep, and your suboptimal sleep is causing another issue, like GERD, headaches, low energy, brain fog, depression, or even teeth grinding.
No matter how you got here—congrats! This is an important first step in gathering the information you need to improve your overall health.
I screen all of my patients for sleep disordered breathing, as sleep apnea and other sleep issues are a key contributor to conditions including cavities, teeth grinding, gum recession, and periodontal disease. And I’m not the only dentist who understands the link between sleep and oral and dental health. In fact, the field of dental sleep medicine is rapidly becoming mainstream; you may even hear your dentist ask about your sleep quality at your next checkup.
Knowing the quality of your sleep is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful pieces of data about yourself that you could have—right up there with your blood type and your genetic predispositions to certain diseases.
But getting access to this data isn’t always easy or convenient.
First, sleep studies are EXPENSIVE—especially if you’re in the majority of people whose insurance doesn’t cover a $4-5K sleep study in the lab. Also, if you’re terrified at the prospect of sleeping in a lab, you’re not alone. Even though a sleep lab is designed to resemble a hotel room instead of a standard hospital room. most people would much rather have their sleep measured from the comfort of their own bed.
Enter the home sleep study.
The benefits of home sleep studies are pretty obvious—they’re cheaper and conducted from the comfort of your own bed stay—but how do you determine which product is the most accurate and worth the money? Or what to expect during the study.
We’ll cover all that and more in this article.
What is a sleep study and how are home studies different?
Sleep studies are designed to measure sleeping heart rate, oxygen level, blood pressure, body movement, and whether there is evidence of any breathing disorders, like sleep apnea.
Traditionally, these studies are done in a hospital, under the care of an MD, but participating in a study can be difficult and inconvenient for a number of reasons:
- The wait times to get an appointment at in-person sleep labs are lengthy, potentially taking months to get in
- The hoops you have to jump through to ensure insurance coverage for the study are extensive
- The study itself is unpleasant: sleeping, observed, in a strange hospital bed with numerous wires and other tech attached to your body is rather uncomfortable
At-home sleep studies are different because they can provide much of the same data without the hassle of a lab visit.
Home sleep study for kids must be prescribed by a doctor. Then, once you receive the kit (either via mail or directly from your doctor’s office), you wear the components of the test for the number of nights allotted for your sleep test.
The components typically include two bands worn around your torso, a pulse monitor worn on your finger, and an oxygen reader tube that rests in your nose.
It’s important to try to keep the different pieces correctly attached to yourself during the nights of the study. If something falls off—which is entirely possible during a night’s sleep—the data may be less accurate and you may have to repeat the whole process again.
Once everything is in place, you only need to sleep as normally as possible for the duration of the study.
Some products will only want to look at a single snapshot night of data, while others will track your sleep data for multiple nights, gathering a set of data that reveals patterns and insights over time.
Sleep Study Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have a better understanding of how sleep studies work, let’s take a look at other commonly asked questions—the answers to which will guide you when choosing the study that is right for you.
How effective are home sleep studies?
Home sleep studies are especially effective in identifying severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, they tend to underestimate breathing events, so they are not great at picking out mild or moderate OSA. While breathing is the key component of the majority of sleep issues, with not-entirely-reliable data and a limited scope of investigation that does not go beyond sleep breathing, I could only describe home sleep studies are partially effective.
How do doctors analyze a sleep study?
How much does a sleep study cost?
Sleep Tech Companies: A Side-by-Side Comparison
I am a big proponent of sleep studies, but I also understand that participating in one (whether in a lab or at home) isn’t an option for everyone, nor is it necessary.
I do firmly believe, however, that we should all be participating in annual sleep “checkups”—similar to a regular teeth cleaning or visit your our doctor. And the good news is that these checkups can be conducted very easily and affordably with some simple, easily accessible technology.
I’ve put together a review of five in-home sleep studies. Each has benefits and disadvantages, so I’ve included those to allow you to select the best option for your situation.
(Spoiler alert: My #1 choice happens to be at the bottom of the list, so don’t stop reading too early!)
- Type of tech: Wearable
- Pros: Wearables like Fitbit are really helpful for tracking and helping you maintain a solid sleep schedule and routine, which is the foundation of healthy sleep. If you’re looking to reset your rhythm and program a stable sleep and wake routine, this technology can help. They can also track the number of times you wake up during the night, as well as the stages of sleep you reach.
- Cons: These devices are great for gathering large datasets about your sleep, but they don’t give you any direction on interpreting the information to improve your sleep quality or behaviors. They also don’t provide information related to your sleep breathing which is one of the key components of sleep health.
- Where to find it: https://www.fitbit.com/home
- Type of tech: Mattress band
- Pros: The band, which goes under your sheets, does a great job of providing a deeper understanding of your transition through the different sleep stages, as well as tracking your sleep routine. Through various sensors in the band, it also tracks humidity and temperature, giving insights into your sleep environment.
- Cons: The sensor detects your breathing rate and snoring but is not able to identify when your sleep ability is interrupted by breathing disturbances. While it can be a helpful device for some sleep health factors, it ultimately falls short where it matters most.
- Where to find it: https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MR9P2LL/A/beddit-3-sleep-monitor
- Type of tech: App
- Pros: SnoreLab records your snoring while you sleep, measuring the intensity of your snoring and providing comparisons over time so you can see if changes like adding a mouth guard or a new pillow lessen your snoring. It also provides you with recordings so you can hear samples (yes, you do snore honey!), as well as suggestions on how to decrease your snoring, should you decide to take action.
- Cons: Not everyone with diminished sleep ability snores. So while the app can provide surprising revelations (who knew you had full conversations with your third-grade teacher in your sleep?), it is not a foolproof way to determine if you are experiencing sleep breathing issues. The app is also more limited than other sleep technologies presented here as it does not track any of the other important factors of sleep health, such as sleep stages or routine.
- Where to find it: https://snorelab.com/
- Partner or Friend Observation
- Type of tech: Manual, non-technical
- Pros: If you’re not ready to commit to a full-scale, at-home technology to get insights into your sleep ability, a preliminary alternative is to have a partner or friend observe you while you sleep. They should note if you display any signs of disrupted sleep (such as teeth-grinding, snoring, gasping breaths, tossing and turning, etc). And you can start tonight!
- Cons: Obviously, the results of this aren’t very scientific and mostly serve as a first step in either confirming that you need a more in-depth assessment, or that you are comfortable with your sleep quality. If you choose to pursue this option, make sure your observer has a smartphone available to video record any sleep events, which is what a doctor will be most interested in.
- Where to find it: At home
- Knit Health (my favorite)
- Type of tech: Non-wearable, wall-mounted camera
- Pros: Nothing to wear, affordable, and accurate enough for me to make this my new go-to for referring my own patients. I’m a stickler for accuracy, and Knit delivers. In addition to identifying breathing quality and disturbances, Knit Health sleep experts evaluate your sleep routine, stages of sleep, sleep quality, and other critical sleep health contributing factors. More importantly, Knit Health provides custom recommendations and an action plan to help you improve your sleep quality, based on the data gathered over multiple nights and video clips that are then shared with a doctor.
- Cons: Some folks are uncomfortable with a local camera over their bed. Good news for them, Knit Health only transfers video clips related to sleep events (i.e the actual moment of snoring) so your data is safe and sound on your home network. It’s as close as you can get to what a lab sleep study can tell you, but in the comfort of your home.
- Where to find it: Shipped to your doorstep, https://www.knithealth.com/askthedentist
I have used Knit for hundreds of my patients and they’ve consistently met or exceeded my standards.
The results come in faster and it’s far more comfortable for my patients—letting us move faster to help my patients move towards the right treatment option so they can get back to living their lives.
We don’t have to wait months for an appointment at the sleep lab.
The data collected is far more accurate and comprehensive than any other home study, anywhere.
This is why I’ve agreed to be an advisor to Knit Health, which allows me to pass along a discount on the technology to my patients. I’ve also asked the company to extend that same discount to my readers, and they’ve agreed! Use this link to get $150 off.
Sleep Assessments Should Be Part of Regular Preventative Wellness Checks
Sleep specialists estimate that 18 million Americans have moderate to severe sleep apnea, and 75 percent of them don’t know it. After just one night of poor sleep, many people complain of lower energy and mood swings, and these problems are only exacerbated with multiple nights of interrupted sleep.
Over multiple days, weeks, months, and even years, poor sleep can impact a number of important health metrics, including cognitive function, weight, risk for preventable diseases (including diabetes heart attacks), and, of course, oral and dental health.
I can’t overstress how important it is to your long-term health to have your sleep ability assessed. If your body goes through the proper stages of sleep, especially deep sleep, the benefits are abundant.
Even if your diet, nutrition, and exercise are perfect, and even if you’re getting eight hours every night, if you haven’t assessed your sleep quality, you could be missing the most important factor of your health.
Read my book, The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox, to learn more.
No matter how you do it, it’s time to start treating your sleep like a preventative wellness check. It doesn’t matter what you choose, just get started with something.
Dr. Mark Burhenne
Have you ever tried a sleep study? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to share your results if you have!read next: Why Women Are at Higher Risk for Sleep Apnea
Want to learn more? Check out my #1 Amazon bestselling book, The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox.
This book will teach you how to achieve your highest quality sleep to become your best, brightest, most capable self.
This 3-step program will show you how you can get the kind of sleep that unlocks your ability to:
- Achieve your perfect weight by suppressing your appetite naturally
- Slow down the aging process
- Wake up happy and refreshed every morning
- Improve your energy levels, concentration and mental focus
- End daytime sleepiness and brain fog