MEDICAL GRADE SLEEP MONITORING
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.