This Wearable Patch Detects Sleep Apnea

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Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that often is left unchecked.

The reason? It’s not like people exhibit symptoms of sleep apnea during routine doctor checkups.

Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. The condition can be deadly.

Sleep apnea illustration. Credit: Habib M’henni/ Wikimedia Commons, [Public domain]
“The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea,” the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, explains on its website. “In this condition, the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. This causes shallow breathing or breathing pauses.”

The NIH goes on to explain that loud snoring can be caused by air squeezing past the pauses in breath. “Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone. For example, small children who have enlarged tonsil tissues in their throats may have obstructive sleep apnea.”

There’s no simple blood test that will let a doctor know that you have it. If you sleep alone, you may not even know you have it.

Your best luck, if you do have it, is that you sleep with a partner who can alert you to what’s going on.

In those cases, you could go into a sleep clinic and have extensive and expensive tests performed to see if you have sleep apnea. The most reliable test is called a polysomnography, but there are other methods.

But now, a simple patch worn by the patient during sleep at home has proven to be nearly as effective as polysomnography. The wearable device is called the SomnaPatch.

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Goes From Clunky to Easy

The study was presented last week as a poster abstract at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

The authors, who received support for their research from the NIH, performed simultaneous polysomnography and patch recordings.

The SomnaPatch is easy to wear and can accurately diagnose sleep apnea in patients. Credit: Somnarus.com

“The skin adhesive diagnostic patch weighs less than one ounce and records nasal pressure, blood oxygen saturation, pulse rate, respiratory effort, sleep time and body position,” reported the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in a news release.

“Our study provided clinical validation of a new wearable device for diagnosing sleep apnea,” said lead investigator Maria Merchant of Somnarus, Inc., maker of the sleep apnea test patch.

“It was most surprising to us how well this inexpensive miniature device performed in comparison with in-lab sleep studies,” she added.

The study also examined whether users could figure out how to put the patch on and get the test started by themselves. That study showed that 38 out of 39 users could.

“Most sleep diagnostic devices are difficult for patients to use and are disruptive to patient’s sleep,” said Merchant. “Our study showed that this wearable home sleep monitor is very comfortable, easy to use, and does not negatively affect sleep.”

Related: High-Tech Melatonin Product Promotes Better Sleep

A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”