…the question is now how many nights of data do you need?

Sleep is a complicated and much talked about subject these days. Even those who don’t have issues with sleep disorder breathing (SDB) and /or sleep apnea have irregularities in their nightly sleep patterns. What you eat. What you drink. The temperature in your bedroom. Even your sleeping position may be responsible for a less-than-great night’s sleep. And a seemingly minor change in your nighttime routine can impact the results of a polysomnography (AKA sleep study).

Home sleep tests (HST) have made sleep studies affordable, accessible, and convenient. More and more people are getting the help they need because of the privacy and increased level of comfort that these home units afford.

Dr. Jackie Schafer of Colorado Healthy Sleep utilizes a new technology called the SleepImage. It is easy to use and can be worn multiple nights to give a more accurate account of a patient’s sleep. In-lab sleep studies are uncomfortable, scary, and expensive. Dr. Schafer says “I often hear from the patient that they did not sleep well the night of the sleep test”. Because of this many patients have turned to their Fitbit or Apple Watch to get information about their sleep patterns. These devices are helpful, but they do not provide enough details about their sleep. The SleepImage HST is a perfect solution. It provides accurate medical information, does not interfere with the patient’s normal sleep and the tests can be taken in their own house and in their own bed.

The benefit to the take-home sleep study units is certainly easy to understand. But as new medical alternatives for sleeplessness advanced, now the question turns to how many nights of data should be collected? While it’s hard to argue that some data is better than no data, how much information is too much information?

A one-night study is the standard for most in-home monitoring, but recent research has found that a single night may miss some mild obstructive apnea cases.  Additionally, in a study of over 10,000 adults, there appeared to be misdiagnosed in the determination of the severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) when only data from one night was analyzed. In cases like these, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to understand why it very well could be valuable to get more than one night’s information before a sleep professional determines a patient’s diagnosis and treatment path.

Dr. Schafer agrees, “We are finding that there could be a ‘first night effect’ found with in-home data collection. Take, for example, a patient may be worried about not getting to sleep so that the data can be collected, or perhaps their child had a restless night, so their study shows that sleep interruption. Allowing patients to utilize our units for two or even three nights gives us an average or baseline of information to start working with. The only problem I see with collecting multiple nights of sleep study data – other than massive amounts of information that needs to be analyzed — is that it sets back patient relief by a few days! And, if you have problems with sleep, you know this can be a MAJOR ISSUE!”

You also may need to consider this: If your sleep test is covered by insurance, know that some providers only reimburse for the first night of data collection. As technology has improved, so have the results that patients have experienced. There may also be a waiting period for a second night’s test to be eligible for reimbursement. This could simply be because a one-night study was the norm previously.  This more holistic overview of a person’s sleep is appears destined to be the new norm.

Dr. Schafer continues, “The cost of sleep tests in a sleep center can cost from $600 to $6,000 and insurance becomes part of the treatment.  I charge $100 for the sleep test and having the report read by a doctor, giving us a diagnosis. I try to keep the cost down to make it easier for the patient. My goal is to help save their lives by getting their treatment started and not get buried in the insurance.

“The goal is to get a higher degree of patient engagement, provide better testing and discover more pathways to the treatments that better fit our patients’ needs. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help someone get a good – no GREAT – night’s sleep EVERY NIGHT!”