Are home studies effective in diagnosing serious sleep problems?

16 April 2012

Sleep apnoea affects around five per cent of Australians, including one in four men over the age of 30. Increasingly home sleep studies are being used to investigate and diagnose the illness.

Up to 30% of all Medicare-funded sleep studies in Australia are now conducted in people’s homes rather than laboratories. Writing in the latest edition of Australian Prescriber, thoracic and sleep doctor at Wesley Medical Centre in Brisbane, Professor Roger Allen, weighs up the pros and cons and warns that home studies are only successful when done properly.

“For a home sleep study to be effective, a number of important elements must be in place, including the input of the referring doctor, the correct use of the equipment by the patient, a skilful sleep technician and accurate scoring and interpretation of the raw data,” says Professor Allen.

The benefits of home studies are that diagnosis can occur faster as public hospital sleep laboratories have long waiting lists and limited resources and patients have a better sleep in their own bed. It is also more convenient and cheaper. Thanks to new technology, data produced from a home sleep study are now equal to a sleep laboratory polysomnogram.

However, with home studies, if electrodes fall off the patient may not realise this until morning. Some home sleep studies do not monitor leg movements. In addition, they also may miss less common sleep disorders, such as nocturnal seizures or parasomnia.

The main difference between the home study and the sleep laboratory polysomnogram is the technician in attendance all night to adjust electrodes, ensure data quality and observe the activities of the patient both asleep and awake.

“The primary aim of home studies is to diagnose sleep-disordered breathing. If other conditions are considered likely, or the patient has multiple illnesses, they should be referred to a sleep physician first,” Professor Allen recommends.

Other articles in this edition of Australian Prescriber include:

  • Asthma treatment still insufficient in Australia
  • Safe use of adrenaline autoinjectors for people with anaphylaxis

To read the full article and others visit

Individuals with questions about their medicine can call the Medicines Line (1300 MEDICINE or 1300 633 424), Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm EST.


Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published by NPS, an independent, not-for-profit organisation for quality use of medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Prescriber is published every two months, in hard copy that is distributed to health professionals free of charge, and online in full text at