MED­I­CAL GRADE SLEEP MON­I­TOR­ING

Techlife News - - Front Page - by Ben­jamin Kerry & Gavin Le­naghan

It is es­ti­mated that around 40 mil­lion peo­ple in the United States suf­fer from long-term, chronic sleep dis­or­ders, with 22 mil­lion suf­fer­ing from sleep ap­nea. This is a par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous sleep­ing dis­or­der, oc­cur­ring when a per­son’s breath­ing is in­ter­rupted dur­ing sleep.

Left un­treated, peo­ple with sleep ap­nea can ‘wake up’ – with­out re­al­iz­ing – up to hun­dreds of times ev­ery time they sleep. This means that the brain and the rest of the body do not re­ceive suf­fi­cient oxy­gen, which can lead to a va­ri­ety of other detri­men­tal phys­i­cal and men­tal con­di­tions. Usu­ally di­ag­nosed only by tak­ing a sleep test, if Ap­ple’s lat­est hard­ware is able to suc­cess­fully di­ag­nose sleep ap­nea, the im­pact on the user could be life-chang­ing.

In an in­ter­view with Reuters ear­lier this year, a spokesper­son for the Amer­i­can Academy of Sleep Medicine high­lighted that cur­rent sleep-track­ing wear­able de­vices were no match for med­i­cal-grade sleep tests. In a way, Ap­ple’s own cur­rent in­abil­ity to prop­erly track users’ sleep­ing habits re­flects the prob­lem en­coun­tered by in­di­vid­u­als – when we’re asleep, we have no idea what’s hap­pen­ing to our bod­ies and brains.

With sleep ap­nea just one of more than 70 rec­og­nized sleep dis­or­ders, we could all soon have ac­cess to tan­gi­ble in­for­ma­tion on how we per­form when we’re ‘out for the count’.

THE FU­TURE OF SLEEP

It’s more than two years since the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion pub­lished find­ings that one third of Amer­i­cans weren’t

get­ting enough sleep. The as­ton­ish­ing fall­out of this stum­bling sleep­ily out of bed has been es­ti­mated to cost the econ­omy more than $400 bil­lion each year, with more than 1.2 mil­lion work­ing days lost per an­num due to tired em­ploy­ees.

Data from wear­able de­vices is al­ready help­ing physi­cians to treat pa­tients suf­fer­ing from a num­ber of dis­eases – and it now looks like sleep dis­or­ders will be ad­dressed next. Be­ing able to mon­i­tor breath­ing and heart rhythms, the length of es­sen­tial deep or REM sleep and those pesky pe­ri­ods when we’re awake for no ap­par­ent rea­son, could pro­vide cru­cial data for users and med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers.

Nat­u­rally, the tech­nol­ogy may take some time to de­velop and be ap­proved for use by the gen­eral pub­lic, much like the ECG hard­ware re­cently in­te­grated into the fourth-gen­er­a­tion Ap­ple Watch. How­ever, once it does ar­rive, we could have in­stant ac­cess to un­end­ing 24/7 health and well­be­ing data, as is so cru­cial for an un­der­stand­ing of how our body func­tions all day and all night long.

Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor of Johns Hop­kins Cen­ter for Sleep, Char­lene Gamaldo, M.D., has iden­ti­fied that we are at an ex­cit­ing and cru­cial stage in us­ing tech­nol­ogy to aid sleep re­search. “Sleep clin­i­cal care and re­search is in a revo­lu­tion­ary place be­cause of tech­nol­ogy,” she said to Johns Hop­kins Medicine. “The brick-and-mor­tar model of con­duct­ing sleep stud­ies in a med­i­cal care cen­ter is re­ally go­ing to be fad­ing into the sun­set or will be min­i­mal at best.”

“There are apps now that record a per­son snor­ing at home. We hope to even­tu­ally cor­re­late the in­for­ma­tion with ac­tual fea­tures of sleep dis­or­ders, which could in­di­cate the pres­ence of con­di­tions like sleep ap­noea.”

With dis­tin­guished med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als al­ready ea­gerly await­ing the next big break­through in sleep mon­i­tor­ing hard­ware, Ap­ple’s lat­est patent ap­pli­ca­tion could be the rev­o­lu­tion they’ve been hop­ing for. If you are in­ter­ested in how you per­form when you’re asleep, we sug­gest that you cur­rently stick with which­ever com­bi­na­tion of wear­able tech and soft­ware you’ve been us­ing, but you should con­sider con­sult­ing a pro­fes­sional if you have any con­cerns over your sleep health.

Un­til we see Ap­ple’s lat­est in­no­va­tion in our homes and bed­rooms, we won’t be en­tirely sure what its true pur­pose will be, and it will in­evitably face some skep­ti­cism and op­po­si­tion. How­ever, this is noth­ing that we haven’t seen in re­sponse to wear­able tech­nolo­gies be­fore.

Not so long ago, many of us would’ve scarcely felt able to imag­ine wear­ing a watch that told us the time, checked our heart rate and cal­cu­lated our calo­ries, all in one pack­age. Now, many of us don’t leave the house – or even get out of bed – with­out such a de­vice.

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