Wearable Technology as A Health Solution?

“Roughly 24% of men and 9% of women have sleep-disordered breathing, and 80% of people with diagnosable sleep apnea don’t realize they have it.” – Brandon Ballinger, co-founder at Cardiogram

Last year, Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine took a closer look at the role sleep trackers play in a good night’s sleep. Though there has been some controversy of how sleep trackers can affect an individual’s sleep, there have been new advances in that arena. Since the individual purchase of wearable technology has been mainly geared towards sport and recreation, healthcare has not been a key focus of wearable technology – until now.

“Consumers rely on [fitness trackers] and the ecosystem of associated apps to meet fitness goals.  And yet, these devices often fall short of identifying actionable health insights, such as risk factors for diabetes and heart disease..”

Peter Daisyme

Converging recreation and health, some investors have found a new niche for fitness and sleep trackers. Brandon Ballinger dares to ask“What if we could transform wearables people already own – Apple Watches, Android Wears, Garmins and Fitbits – into inexpensive, everyday screening tools using artificial intelligence?” His article mentions hypertension and sleep apnea as two conditions most suited to be diagnosed with wearable technology and the assistance of his app.  He mentions that the rate of detection can be staggeringly accurate via consumer wearables and the DeepHeart app.

While Cardiogram promotes the DeepHeart app that they’ve developed to work with existing wearables, many technology companies are gearing their next generation devices to be more health-conscious.  Jawbone is focusing on interpreting the heart rate metrics gleaned from the device’s daily use; iBeat has a device that links it’s wearer to an emergency response center via a help button; Diabetes Sentry “tracks a patient’s skin temperature and perspiration levels to detect signs of a drop in blood glucose levels.”  

Perhaps the most exciting of all – for sleep apnea sufferers – is the Go2Sleep ring.  

“Go2Sleep monitors wearers’ heart rate, blood oxygen saturation levels, perfusion index (your pulse strength), and the amount that you’re tossing and turning during your sleep in order to provide you with a sleep report.”Lulu Chang

While it is appealing (and cost-effective) for an individual to use the fitness tracker that they already have to detect life-threatening health issues, it is also exciting to keep an eye on the new devices that are on the horizon of this new industry.  Morphing a recreational consumer item into a potentially life-saving device is very exciting indeed.

So what is the role that wearable technology plays on a good night of sleep?  It still remains to be seen, and we are looking forward to learning more as the developments come.

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