If you have sleep apnea, you’ve probably already tried a few things to help you (and your sleeping partner) get more of the restful sleep you need. Some of the traditional treatments, like using a CPAP machine or surgery, have relieved symptoms for some people. But what if you’re one of those who haven’t been helped by these treatments? Fortunately, new tech is always evolving to help with diagnosis and treatment of this common issue.
Innovations in Diagnosis and Monitoring
Here are a few of the most cutting-edge devices that can help your healthcare team diagnose sleep apnea and/or monitor your situation:
- WatchPAT: Developed in the Weizmann Institute by Itamar Medical and newly approved by the FDA, this is a monitoring system with three sensors. These sensors take several readings during the night, including your body position, heart rate, oxygen saturation levels, snoring, and chest motion. One version is a single-use device that transmits study data to a cloud via smartphone app with a 98% study success rate. This allows for faster diagnosis and monitoring after diagnosis.
- AI and Biomarkers: Not everyone has access to a sleep lab or monitoring equipment at home. So there is a new technology for diagnosing sleep apnea by applying oxygen saturation readings during sleep and demographic factors like age, weight, height, and neck dimension. A smart watch or a wearable that measures oxygen saturation provides enough data to discern who has the condition and who does not. This method, led by a team in Israel’s Technion (Institute of Technology), has recently been published in ClinicalMedicine. This model, called “OxyDOSA,” is in the first stages of research.
- Apple Watch: The Apple watch monitors your sleep with a downloadable app. It tracks how long you have slept, your average heart rate during sleep, and how much restful sleep you experienced. This is not a diagnostic tool, but it can give the wearer some insight into sleep quality and help with monitoring.
- Withings’ Health Watch: In the process of receiving FDA approval, this French “ScanWatch” has a built-in electrocardiogram, monitors oxygen saturation, and also tracks sleep. It surpasses the Fitbit and Apple watch with its 30-day battery life. While not considered a medical diagnostic tool, it can alert the user to the existence of a problem.
Innovations in Treatment
The latest tech for treating sleep apnea is a far cry from the obtrusive, sometimes cumbersome (and perhaps unromantic), masks, tubes, and machines.
- Hypoglossus Nerve Stimulation (HNS): “Inspire” is a small device that is implanted in the chest (an outpatient procedure) that the patient can turn on or off. The device monitors your breathing while you sleep and stimulates a nerve that keeps your airway open–a sort of “pacemaker” for breathing. This device is recommended for patients where CPAP therapy has fallen short or is ineffective. It is FDA approved as a safe and effective treatment.
- Phrenic Nerve Stimulation: Similar to the HNS, this FDA-approved treatment is used for adults with central sleep apnea. It monitors your respiratory signals, stimulates the nerve, and assists in restoring regular breathing. It turns on automatically when the patient falls asleep.
If you have sleep apnea, it is easier than ever to get diagnosed and treated. With new tech, monitoring a patient’s adherence to medical protocols and analyzing results in order to adjust settings, no matter what device or method is being used, allows your healthcare team to give appropriate follow-up care. Importantly, these innovations allow for the analysis of patient sleep patterns while patients are in their normal sleeping situation. This gives more authentic and consistent data, making treatment for sleep apnea easier than it has ever been. It gives hope to the many who are still undiagnosed and untreated, too, that their quality of life may be improved with restful sleep.
- What is Sleep Apnea?
- New technology to assess sleep apnea: wearables, smartphones, and accessories
- Itamar Medical
- Israeli researchers develop AI tech to detect sleep apnea
- Feasibility of Single Channel Oximetry for Mass Screening of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Withings’ new health watch can check for sleep apnea
- The Withings ScanWatch can spot an often-undiagnosed and very serious condition
- The outcomes of hypoglossal nerve stimulation in the management of OSA: A systematic review and meta-analysis
- Stimulation Therapy for Apnea Reduction
- Upper Airway Stimulation (Inspire Therapy)
- Long-term efficacy and safety of phrenic nerve stimulation for the treatment of central sleep apnea