Sleep apnea has, for the longest time, been one of the leading causes of sleep deprivation and complications with the sleep cycle of anyone who suffers from it. As said as much before, but this condition, which can equally affect persons of any gender, manifests itself as periods during sleep where the victim stops breathing for extended periods of time. The condition also manifests as intense bouts of snoring in the occasions where the person is gasping for breath in his or her sleep and usually ends when the individual is awoken due to lack of oxygen.
The symptoms caused by sleep apnea, however, are usually experienced during the person’s waking time and can consist of morning headaches, and excessive fatigue, both of which can seriously detract from their performance at work. Moreover, in some cases, sleep apnea can even put his or her life in danger such as in the cases the victim has to regularly operate heavy machinery or other dangerous equipment, as fatigue can negatively impact the person’s focus.
Kids Can Have Sleep Apnea?
It was believed initially that sleep apnea could only affect adults as the symptoms are usually more noticeable on individuals of this age group. After all, finding a child that’s considerably weighed down by sleep apnea is no easy task, compared to adults who can arguably have more responsibilities on top of the sleep deprivation caused by the condition. Nevertheless, children who are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea can usually snore louder than their older relatives and are usually more fatigued than them, as well, even after waking up in the morning. Children who suffer from OSA have a harder time performing just about any task, from putting their shoes on and walking a few blocks to school, to getting out and playing with friends during the day. This, in turn, leads to grave consequences down the road, such as obesity, lack of motivation, underachieving in school, and complications to perform even the simplest tasks due to excessive fatigue.
One of the hardest things about diagnosing sleep apnea in children, especially those entering their teens, is that the symptoms can usually be associated with puberty or the necessity to rebel. As such, children can be wrongfully scolded or reprimanded for behaviors they might not be aware of is caused by an external condition.
Luckily, as the methods for treating and reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea evolve, so too do the procedures used for the early detection of the condition. Apnea monitors allow concerned parents to monitor their children while they sleep and are used in the detection of a variety of problems that can affect their breathing. When it comes to sleep apnea, early detection in children is key for sparing them from a world of complications in the future, as the treatments for treating early-onset OSA can usually save them of this condition for the remainder of their lives.
Early Sense’s Contact-Free Sensor
The apnea monitors used in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units of many hospitals are really a marvel of modern engineering. They are equipped to provide a wide range of monitoring functions to effectively gauge whether the baby is suffering from any breathing conditions, such as sleep apnea. The monitoring of the baby’s sleep is called polysomnography, and involves everything from breathing, to heart rate in a range of 12 to 24 hours. The polysomnographs — also called pneumocardiograms — are performed with devices similar to standard cardiorespiratory monitors, but with additional channels to monitor the baby’s heart rate in greater detail, as well as his or her respirations, airflow through the nose, and oxygen saturation. These studies in determining if the baby suffers from sleep apnea from a very early age. Furthermore, it’s also useful for pinpointing if the cause of the said condition is due to gastroesophageal reflux via the use of a special attachment.
However, this is a very expensive piece of equipment that the great majority of users won’t ever have access to at home. This is where EarlySense’s Contact-Free Sensor comes into play. The device, manufactured by contact-free continuous monitoring solutions maker EarlySense consists of a gadget that connects to a smartphone app, and which allows anyone to accurately and easily detect sleep apnea, as well as sleep-disordered breathing. The solution is accurate up to 90% in comparison with polysomnography which is, as mentioned above, one of the best ways to monitor and diagnose breathing disorders on children.
The device itself is based on cutting-edge technology and studies and allows users to both identify individuals who are going through an apnea episode, as well as predicting those that are about to experience one, allowing caregivers and parents to react and intervene immediately.
Evaluating Children with the Condition
The studies in question were published early in 2017 on the ATS Journal and consisted of the evaluation of children who were receiving care in the Pediatric Pulmonary Unit and Sleep Center at the Soroka Medical Center. The study considered a group of children that were referred to the center for suspected sleep-disordered breathing. The children underwent full overnight sleep in a sleep laboratory where they were simultaneously evaluated with a PSG and EarlySense’s PE contact-free sensor. EarlySense’s system measured both sleep/wake and apnea/hypopnea events to achieve an accurate AHI (apnea/hypopnea Index) estimation. After the study ended, the results of EarlySense’s system were compared to those from the PSG and showed much promise for those who suffer from sleep apnea.
The conclusions suggest that EarlySense’s PE monitor could be effectively used in-home screening for individuals that suffer from sleep apnea or other types of sleep-disordered breathing. Furthermore, the continuous monitoring of children of all ages — at times, for several consecutive nights — with the comfort of a wireless system will help expand the field of sleep medicine while also allowing everyone to receive care without having schedule appointments weeks in advance in order to get their children examined.
EarlySense’s solution — dubbed EarlySense Live — launched early in 2017 and is providing useful information for parents of sleep apnea sufferers including heart rate, breathing cycles, stress, and sleep indicators. The technology has seen such success, so far, that is has been adopted globally by hospitals, rehab centers, and nursing facilities.
While the Contact-Free Sensor by itself will hardly guarantee the solution of sleep apnea around the world, it is a valuable source of information for both parents of children that suffer from sleep-disordered breathing, as well as the clinicians so that they may prescribe better and accurate treatments aimed at reducing or removing the symptoms entirely. As matters stand today, home-based contact-free monitoring is the future in personal health and will, hopefully, help to improve the lives of individuals who suffer from sleep apnea.