There are many upsides to downtime. At the most basic level, rejuvenating the body and brain through sleep is crucial to survival. Researchers continue to uncover and prove the positive effects of sleeping, and the deleterious effects of sleep deprivation. Yet, many people still do not obtain the sleep quality and quantity that their bodies need. Many adults in the United States report symptoms of fatigue throughout the day; often times this leads to increased caffeine consumption and poor sleep quality at night. This vicious cycle is perpetuated by the lack of emphasis placed on the importance of sleep. Moreover, since sleep disturbances also play a role in developing chronic conditions, innovative devices that can pinpoint and treat these issues are needed.
Up until now, patients have been using telemedicine to treat symptoms of insomnia and other sleep-related conditions. Medical professionals treat their symptoms and can temporarily provide relief. However, more long-term prevention techniques are now available in the form of at-home telehealth devices. These have commonly been used to monitor factors like vital signs and blood glucose levels. In addition to these, machines that monitor sleeping patterns can now be added to the list. Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where patients stop breathing while asleep, causes sleep disturbances because the brain will wake the body when it is deprived of oxygen. An estimated 12 million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea. In an attempt to help these patients sleep better, researchers have been using at-home sleep studies to investigate the causes of sleep apnea. This helps medical specialists obtain more accurate data than they would by conducting sleep studies in a lab.
The ARES (Apnea Risk Evaluation System) is one such device that collects a variety of information, simply by being worn on the patient’s head while asleep. Built-in sensors are able to capture air flow, body positioning, breathing effort, oxygen saturation, heartbeat rhythms and other biological measures. Professionals are then able to receive these readings and create a treatment plan to prevent and correct sleep apnea. Devices like the ARES will hopefully assist in detecting sleep disorders (there are more than 80!), as they usually go undiagnosed during routine appointments.