Do I Need a Sleep Study to Get a CPAP Device?

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, a sleep study is the best way to determine if you actually have the sleep disorder. If your doctor has ordered a sleep study to understand the cause of your sleep troubles, you should know what a sleep study is and how they work.

Why you need a sleep test

When it comes to your health, self-diagnosis can be dangerous. If you think you have sleep apnea, the next thing you do is discuss your symptoms (i.e., lethargy, sleepiness during the day, trouble concentrating, etc.) with your doctor.

A sleep study will then be required to determine the existence of sleep apnea and its severity. Depending on your symptoms, health history, and doctor recommendation, your sleep test options include:

  • Polysomnogram (PSG). An overnight sleep study at a sleep center
  • Home sleep test (HST). An unattended home sleep test if the sleep clinic is miles away, booked for months, or your circumstances would make an overnight stay at a sleep clinic difficult

If you don’t have a doctor or your insurance provider has exact requirements to cover the cost of a sleep study, an appointment with a board-certified sleep specialist may be necessary to get you scheduled for a sleep study.

Why you need a prescription for CPAP therapy

Once confirmed that it’s sleep apnea that you’re suffering from and your doctor recommends CPAP therapy as a treatment option, you must obtain a CPAP prescription. This will ensure that your device will be covered by your insurance, that it is set to the specific pressure that you need, and that you have the right device.

Insurance coverage

Unless you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea and your doctor prescribes CPAP therapy for treatment, you’ll have trouble getting Medicare and other insurances to pay for the cost of a CPAP equipment. 

Specific pressure settings

To get the best care possible, the pressure settings on your CPAP machine should coincide with the results of your sleep study. Otherwise, CPAP therapy may not work in your favor. Inadequate settings can even pose serious health risks.

Machine specifications

PAP (Positive Air Pressure) devices come in many different forms, and sleep apnea can be obstructive, central, or mixed. A CPAP prescription determines the type of machine best suited for your condition.

Getting a prescription

Your doctor must also determine that CPAP therapy can help alleviate your symptoms. For that reason, a sleep test is necessary to obtain a prescription for the machine.

Important: If you opt for a home sleep test, you cannot be issued a CPAP machine unless you complete a follow-up titration study. In such cases, your doctor may recommend an automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) machine, which is similar to a CPAP device except for the fact that the air pressure is automatically set.

Upon completion of the sleep study, the sleep physician either forwards the recommendations to another doctor or writes the prescription himself/herself.

Note: While any licensed medical professional (e.g., medical doctor, osteopathic physician, dentist, nurse, naturopathic doctor, etc.) can write CPAP prescriptions, the recommendations must come from the sleep physician who interpreted the results of the sleep study.

Once you have the prescription, check it for the following details:

  • Your full name
  • The doctor’s signature and contact information
  • Diagnosis (the type of sleep apnea)
  • Machine type (APAP, CPAP, etc.)
  • Duration of the therapy 
  • Pressure settings
  • Mask/delivery system
  • If a humidifier is needed
  • Parts/accessories replacement schedule

Final word

To get started with CPAP therapy, a sleep study is essential. Sure, you can purchase a CPAP device without a prescription from sites like Craigslist, but beware of the risks. Under federal law, CPAP devices are medical devices that require a prescription for distribution.

To get the most benefit from your CPAP experience and ensure you stay compliant for insurance purposes, RemZzzs® CPAP Mask Liners are made of 100% breathable cotton knit to provide a comfortable, relaxing, full night of sleep for both you and your partner.


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