UW researchers developing sleep apnea app

Jean Enersen reports.

A typical sleep study involves being swathed in lots of wires and electrodes.

No wonder patients have trouble falling asleep.

"The sleep laboratory is an artificial environment. It's strange. We understand we're not getting a typical night's sleep," said Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the Harborview Medical Center Sleep Disorders Center,

That why University of Washington researchers came up an apnea app that works on your smart phone. It detects breathing patterns

No electrodes no wires involved.

"It uses sonar technique, kind of like a bat, " said Dr. Watson.

He points out that the app can even differentiate between two people sleeping in the same bed. Another advantage: data can be collected over multiple nights, not just one.

However, Dr. Watson says it's unlikely the Apnea App will ever completely replace the sleep lab, but it could become an important screening tool to detect the 80% of apnea patients who don't even know they have a problem, a problem that could lead to serious health consequences.

Untreated sleep apnea can put people at higher risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, depression ,diabetes--even premature death.

Dr. Watson says the says the Apnea App could be available to consumers in a year, but will take longer if researchers decide to seek FDA approval.


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