Healthy Living

Fitbit Looks into Inventing New Device to Detect Sleep Apnea

Fitbit Looks into Inventing New Device to Detect Sleep Apnea

Fitbit is an industry that is designed to help people track their progress to becoming healthier. Their products are easy to use, connect to devices like a smartphone, and help the wearer track their steps, heart rate, and much more. This convenience helps people to know where they need to push themselves harder and even can help them see if they are not sleeping well.

Now Fitbit would like to take this one step further. They are looking into creating a new product that will go beyond tracking how many times a person wakes up while sleeping. This new device, that is under development, will help track if a person is breathing during the night. The data taken from this device will help people determine with their doctor if they need to be treated for sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition that goes undiagnosed in many people. It is characterized by taking pauses in your breathing or taking shallow breaths as you sleep. These pauses can last a few seconds and sometimes they can go for minutes. This condition disrupts a person's sleep pattern and can lead to other health problems when left untreated.

When your body changes its breathing pattern or a person begins breathing again, they are moving from deep sleep into light sleep. When this occurs multiple times a night, the person is waking up tired because they have not slept properly during the night.

The trouble with diagnosing sleep apnea

The issue with diagnosing sleep apnea is in the way it presents itself. Typically, medical conditions can be diagnosed with a test at a doctor's office. Tests like a blood test make it easier to diagnose a medical condition. These tests are administered in the office and sent to a lab for the results. However, sleep apnea cannot be tested in a manner like this.

Most people only learn that they have sleep apnea after a significant other or loved one notices a problem during sleep. They will notice that the person with sleep apnea struggled to breath during the night or takes gasping breaths after a long pause.

Sleep apnea should not go untreated. It can cause people to have more accidents while driving or at work due to being tired. It also increases a person's chance to have high blood pressure, a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, and obesity. It can also cause arrhythmia which is an irregular heartbeat.

Fitbit is a company that is oriented around keeping their customers healthy. They use their products currently to track the wearer's steps and their heart rate. To stay on track with their customers’ health, they have decided to try to help those with undiagnosed sleep apnea. Fitbit saw that there was a need for a product that can help a person know if they are having difficulties breathing during the night.

Since there are around eighteen million people that have sleep apnea, there is a large market for a product that can help someone figure out if they have the condition. An easy-to-use product is needed since so many people live with sleep apnea who have no way to know that there is a problem. Fitbit has been trying to build a tool that can monitor someone's sleep to help them diagnose sleep apnea.

The device that they are creating is being designed to be similar to Fitbit's current products. They want it to be a wearable product that will be unobtrusive to the wearer. It will be worn like a Fitbit tracker and be able to help diagnose sleep apnea.

Fitbit’s progress

The research team at Fitbit has been working on new technology to help them track the oxygen someone is taking in. They are testing biomedical sensors and how they can be applied. They are looking into using these sensors to help track a person as they are sleeping. The way they would like to diagnose sleep apnea is through tracking heart rate along with the oxygen levels of the wearer.

The device that they are trying to develop uses optical technology. This technology will shine a light onto the wearer's skin. Blood under the skin will be evaluated to see what level of oxygen is being distributed throughout the body. This light will help detect the color of blood of the wearer. If the blood is highly oxygenated it will be red. If the blood is bluer, it has less oxygen.

As the device tracks a person's oxygen levels in their blood, it can help to determine if they are losing oxygen during the night. If there are more consistent fluctuations in the oxygen content in the blood where the blood is found to have a low oxygen content during the night it can help indicate that the person has sleep apnea. The device will alert the wearer after many nights of consistent oxygen loss.

The device that is being developed is currently being tested by Fitbit. The prototypes are being tested in sleep labs to see how well it is able to detect when a person has sleep apnea. With these tests, the company expects to be able to put out a finished project soon. Within a year they expect to start sales on their device.

Goals and end results

The company hopes that their new device will be able to help people diagnose their sleep apnea. The problem lies in whether or not doctors will allow a device developed by Fitbit to help give them information about a person's medical condition. Fitbit is not sure of how much they still need to work with the FDA to be able to produce a product that doctors can trust.

It is much more likely that people will only be able to make the suggestion that they have sleep apnea due to the devices help. Doctors will still need to decide what treatments can help their patients. The product may be able to help patients track their progress with a treatment. This data could help them communicate with their doctor more effectively.

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects many people. It is a condition that is not noticeable to the person being affected because they are sleeping when the symptoms present themselves. Without the help of a loved one, a person can live with sleep apnea for much of their life. They will continue to have symptoms of fatigue throughout their day without any way to know why.

Fitbit wants to help people that have this condition to more readily present the information to their doctors. Even though doctors may not completely trust a consumer product to tell them their patient has a condition like sleep apnea, it will start the discussion. With this opening, they will be able to better help their patients.

Final thoughts

For anyone with sleep apnea that is diagnosed and being treated, this new device may help them determine when a treatment is working. The data that is collected by the device can show a person's progress with a treatment or show that the body is not responding to a treatment.

With this information, people will be able to tell their doctor if their treatment is going well or if they believe it needs to be changed. There will be less guessing at the success of a treatment. People will be able to feel better and treat their sleep apnea more effectively through the new Fitbit product.