While insomnia gets most of the attention when it comes to widespread sleep issues, sleep apnea is just as serious a problem and can have serious medical side effects. Sleep apnea affects one in 15 Americans, or about 18 million people in the U.S. alone. Sleep apnea can cause a wide range of unwanted health problems including headaches, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, or or even heart attacks or heart failure. While there are a wide range of products which treat sleep apnea symptoms, finding the root causes or triggers of sleep apnea requires careful tracking of symptoms over time. Luckily, individuals who are affected by sleep apnea have a powerful new tool that could help them track their sleep apnea: the Apple Watch.
Recent research by sleep researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and health startup Cardiogram, Apple Watches can be used to accurately detect sleep apnea. The study involved 6,115 participants who used the Cardiogram app to track their blood pressure, pulse, and other metrics while wearers sleep. The study found that Apple Watch can detect sleep apnea with a 90 percent accuracy, while detecting hypertension with an 82 percent accuracy and abnormal heart rhythms with 97 percent accuracy.
It’s very important to note that an Apple Watch is not a substitute for a sleep study or medical evaluation, and the data it produces should not be taken as a diagnosis. However, the information the smart watch provides could spur people to make an appointment with their doctor, which could help identify serious medical conditions and result in an improved quality of life or even save lives.
Many sleep-related health problems go undetected because their symptoms can often go undetected or seem insignificant. Wearable smart devices like the Apple Watch and even many new smartphones have become perhaps unexpected allies in the new data-driven health revolution. The modern big data explosion coupled with smaller and more powerful wearable devices could lead to a paradigm shift in how doctors and other medical professionals collect data and diagnose many difficult-to-detect disorders like sleep apnea.