Detecting sleep apnea whilst you’re awake using a new app

I’m told that I make a variety of rather loud and unusual noises when I sleep, but the prospect of visiting a sleep clinic is not one that particularly appeals.  Help may be at hand via a new app based system developed by a team from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), in Israel.

The system is fascinating because it promises to help sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) whilst they are still awake, all from their smartphone.

“We’ve developed technology that could help diagnose OSA and sleep disorders in a convenient way,” the team say. “The audio-analysis application can record speech signals from awake subjects. Now, we will be able to get a fast, OSA severity estimation without an overnight sleep study.”

Better diagnosis

At the moment, if you want to be accurately diagnosed for sleep apnea, you have to visit a lab where your brain waves, bloody oxygen, breathing, heart rate, and eye and leg movements are tracked as you sleep.

The new, app based approach, doesn’t require any sensors, but instead utilizes the ambient microphone that is built into most phones.  The system then monitors your speech whilst you’re awake, and then records your breathing as you sleep to provide a simpler and much less expensive means of diagnosis.

“All sleep studies conducted in laboratory or at-home settings currently require subjects to be connected to numerous electrodes and sensors,” the team say. “Processing the data on sleep-wake states and corresponding aspects of physiology is time-consuming, tedious and costly because of its complexity and the need for technical expertise. The market is begging for a better solution.”

The system has been put through its paces on over 350 test subjects, where it was compared alongside more traditional, lab based testing.  The app based system was found to be as effective at evaluating a number of sleep quality parameters.

“We are excited about this non-contact sleep tracking system, which does not require patients to wear uncomfortable monitoring equipment on their body,” the researchers conclude. “This application can also be very useful for CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine users who want to check the effectiveness of their sleep apnea therapy.”

As of the time of writing, the app still has some significant development work to undergo before it’s fit for the marketplace, so for the time being my other half will have to suffer my snoring for a bit longer.

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