With every passing day, more and more wearable companies are incorporating sleep tracking features into their product offerings. Last we checked, all the major players including Apple, Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit, and Polar are currently offering some form of Sleep monitoring and sleep quality rating features.
None of these major players today offer a definitive feature for diagnosing, monitoring and managing Sleep Apnea, except for one company that is grabbing on to first mover’s advantage and making some serious progress.
If you are in the market for a fitness tracker or smartwatch that can help you monitor and manage Sleep Apnea in addition to offering other activity and health tracking features, you should spend some time researching the new Withings ScanWatch.
Soon to be released, the new Withings ScanWatch builds upon the progress made by the company on its earlier products such as Move ECG, Move and Steel HR smartwatches.
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Understanding Sleep Apnea
It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed.
There are two main types of Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway in your nose or throat becomes partially or completely blocked. It can be blocked by large tonsils, a large tongue or by too much tissue in the airway. Excess tissue in the airway is more common in people who are overweight. When airway muscles relax during sleep, this extra tissue can block the breathing passages.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain stem, the area of the brain that controls breathing, is damaged. The brain stem may be damaged by an infection or stroke.
When left undiagnosed and untreated, Sleep apnea can result in major health issues. People with Sleep apnea can develop cardiovascular issues and also have a higher risk of early death (1).
When examining, quality measures of care for adult patients with obstructive sleep apnea, the journal of clinical sleep medicine focussed on three key areas, that were thought to provide the most value.(2)
- Improve disease detection and categorization
- Improve Quality of Life ( Assessment of sleepiness and adherence to OSA therapy)
- Reduce Cardiovascular Risk ( via weight management and blood pressure control)
Withings ScanWatch for Sleep Apnea
The new Withings ScanWatch is the first on-wrist wearable smartwatch that can address all the three key areas identified by the JSCM study, noted above.
How does Withings ScanWatch detect Sleep Apnea?
Detection of Sleep Apnea
When it comes to detection and diagnosis of Sleep Apnea, the Withings Scanwatch monitors your oxygen saturation levels using embedded SpO2 sensors to detect as well as provide details around apneic episodes.
This is because, during an episode of sleep apnea (apneic episode), the insufficient flow of air into the lungs can cause a drop in blood oxygen levels. Withings embedded sensors continuously monitor your SpO2 levels using their overnight scan feature.
Improving Quality of life measures related to Sleep Apnea
The Withings ScanWatch does more than just detect apneic episodes using the overnight scan feature.
You are able to improve your cardiovascular fitness levels by using one or more of thirty different activity tracking features right from your wrist.
The ScanWatch is also waterproof and comes with 5ATM water resistance, making it a great companion for your swimming workouts.
The heart rate and ECG tracker features on the unit are medical-grade and can detect AFib (Atrial Fibrillation).
Using the companion blood pressure device from Withings, you can also monitor and manage your blood pressure and it uploads the information directly into the Withings app on your phone.
What makes the Withings ScanWatch sleep apnea feature different from other trackers?
Many of the existing fitness trackers now have SpO2 monitoring. You will find these in the entry-level health trackers from Garmin as well as from Fitbit.
None of these devices claim to be able to detect sleep apnea.
Because they have not been clinically tested yet for sleep apnea. Withings ScanWatch is currently being studied in detail using several clinical trials.
Besides the two validation studies that are in progress using the Withings sleep tracking mat, Withings ScanWatch pulse oximetry was studied at the University of San Francisco, Hypoxia Lab via a clinical trial and is also being validated in other studies.
Withings is not new to Sleep tracking and related sleep science.
One of its more popular contact-less devices for sleep tracking is the Sleep Tracking mat.
Currently featured as Amazon’s choice, and available for less than $99, this is worth exploring for people who do not like to wear a watch when sleeping
Withings Sleep offers sleep cycles analysis (deep, light and REM), heart rate tracking and snore detection. Easy one-time setup and automatic sync to the Health Mate app via Wi-Fi.
Withings Sleep detects pauses and then gives a report on the intensity of breathing disturbances, thanks to an algorithm based on a reference sample of people experiencing very few to very frequent interruptions in breathing patterns during their nights.
The current Withings Sleep tracking platform can monitor your sleep patterns and sleep stages BUT its Breathing disturbances detection feature differs from medical standard for sleep apnea diagnosis, which is the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI).
This is one of the reasons why the company has not been able to release the ScanWatch product. Once it is able to get clearance from regulatory bodies for sleep apnea detection, we should find the product hitting the shelves.
Given the years of experience in Sleep science and related products, it is no brainer that the Withings ScanWatch is poised to become one of the best fitness trackers for people suffering from Sleep Apnea.
Can you track sleep apnea from your current fitness tracker?
Most Fitbit watches and other devices are able to detect how many times your body is restless during the night.
This might provide you with some guidance around how many apneas you may be suffering in a night.
Apnea is an event in which your body suddenly stops breathing during sleep. While 10 to 30 periods of restlessness are normal during the night, between 5 to over 30 an hour may point to severity of sleep apnea.
If your current fitness tracker detects SpO2 (blood oxygen levels), the blood oxygen level reports may give you some clues around sleep apnea related issues.
Reductions in blood oxygen levels (desaturation) are usually the key metric. A normal blood oxygen level (saturation) is usually 96 – 97%.
Reductions to not less than 90% usually are considered mild. Dips into the 80 – 89% range can be considered moderate, and those below 80% are severe.
Blood Oxygen Level Monitoring on Apple Watch Series 6
In the next 30 – 60 days, it should become very clear what the leader of on-wrist wearables, the Apple Watch, has in store for us.
The company is expected to release the Apple Watch Series 6 this fall. One of the new and core features it is expected to introduce is Blood Oxygen monitoring (SpO2).
Usually, when Apple introduces a new feature, it becomes apparent that there’s a lot of thought that has gone into the development of the feature.
For example, Apple simply didn’t stop with spitting out Heart Rate BPMs on the watch but elevated the experience by incorporating ECG and pioneering aFib detection.
Given that the company plans on introducing blood oxygen level monitoring, one has to wonder if Apple is going to unveil advanced sleep-tracking features such as the detection of Sleep apnea within the next few quarters.
The current Sleep tracking features unveiled via watchOS 7 are pretty basic however Apple could up its game around sleep tracking and detection of Sleep apnea very quickly.
As it stands today, if you are looking for a fitness tracker or a smartwatch that can help you with sleep monitoring, manage sleep apnea with a medical-grade ECG tracker, sign up for the Withings ScanWatch and you will be notified as soon as they release the new Watch.
Please let us know if you have any questions or if you would like to share your experience with a tracker or gadget that helps you monitor and manage Sleep Apnea.
1. People with Sleep Apnea have a high risk of death – American academy of sleep medicine
2. Quality Measures for the care of adult patients with obstructive sleep apnea – Journal of Clinical Sleep medicine https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.4556
3. Harvard Medical Health on Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/sleep-apnea-a-to-z
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