Fitbit Steps into the Medical Monitoring Field to Track Sleep Disorders

Individuals who want to track sleep disorders at home may soon have a new tool at their disposal. Fitbit exploded onto the scene a few years ago with their popular wearable detection device. The Fitbit is designed to encourage people to live a healthy, active lifestyle. It monitors steps, heart rate, and much more.

Now Fitbit is modifying this technology for another purpose. The Bethesda Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry is keeping an eye on this exciting development. We’ve treated many patients suffering from sleep disorders and this new product may help them keep a better eye on their sleep disorder.

Track Sleep Disorders with New and Existing Technology

As the fitness craze starts to die down, companies such as Fitbit are looking for new ways to utilize their incredible technology. The most logical market to break into is the medical sector. They honed in on one area that needed, and lacked tracking technology. Sleep disorders affect an incredible number of Americans, yet there’s currently no way to track sleep disorders at home.

Currently the only way to monitor your sleep disorder is at a sleep center, covered in sensors and wires. This is expensive and uncomfortable. Some home monitoring devices do exist but are meant for short term use and are also costly and complicated. Fitbit is trying to fill this gap by modifying their existing technology to track symptoms of OSA and other sleep disorders.

Sleep disorders such as OSA result in pauses in breathing while sleeping. This creates a higher risk of heart failure, stroke, obesity, and a number of other significant health issues. Unfortunately, many people who have sleep disorders either don’t know they have them, aren’t following their treatment plan, or are receiving inadequate treatment. CNBC reports:

“We’d perform a useful public service by alerting users to the fact that they have a problem,” said Conor Heneghan, Fitbit’s lead research scientist, in an interview. Heneghan works on Fitbit’s research and development team, which is focused on testing out new biomedical sensors and exploring potential applications.

There’s a market for sleep disorder detection and tracking. We’re constantly learning more about the dangers of sleep disorders and the impact they have on our health. Sleep studies are inconvenient for many people. A simple device that can monitor the same information and provide instant feedback in the privacy of your own home would be a great advancement for the medical field.

Taking Technology to the Next Level to Track Sleep Disorders

Fitbit’s team is combining new and existing technology to create a device that will accurately detect and track sleep disorders:

More specifically, Heneghan’s team is looking into using optical technologies that shine a light into the skin. Blood that is highly oxygenated is red, but gets bluer with less oxygen. The technology tracks dips in oxygen levels during the night, a possible indicator of sleep apnea.

“We’re leveraging the fact that Fitbit has experience in optical electronics and making them small and power efficient,” said Heneghan.

Fitbit isn’t the only company working on this type of device. Many companies are venturing into the medical field to help with the detection and monitoring of health issues. Apple is working on creating a non-invasive option for tracking blood glucose. As technology companies continue to shift to the medical industry, millions of lives could potentially be saved. These devices will help individuals with diabetes, heart disease, and sleep disorders. These are large markets that need this type of breakthrough. The technology is rapidly advancing to allow these types of devices the ability to collect important medical data. The final hurdle is achieving approval through the FDA, which takes both time and resources.

 “Sleep apnea is a huge market and a target that has very clear definitions, relative to other diseases,” said Roy Raymann, vice president of sleep science at SleepScore Labs, and the former sleep expert on Apple’s health team.

Fitbit is working towards FDA approval by working closely with sleep labs to study the effectiveness of their prototypes. Heneghan hopes the new device will be available in the United States within the year as long as it performs well in tests. Unfortunately, they aren’t aware of the requirements in other countries.

Tracking Sleep Disorders to Test Treatments

Fitbit’s new sleep disorder tracking device holds a lot of promise. The company is hopeful that the device will empower users to look into treatment if they believe they have a sleep disorder. This tool can also be useful for tedting how well treatments work for people suffering from sleep disorders.

The typical treatment for OSA treatments is CPAP therapy. Unfortunately, this type of treatment also has the lowest compliance rate. This means these patients are not following their treatment plan. When they don’t follow their treatment plan then symptoms return and they are at risk for developing other serious conditions because they aren’t getting the treatment they need.

The ability to track sleep disorders at home can help these patients understand their condition. It can also encourage them to obey their treatment plan. It can also help them see if their treatment plan has decreased in effectiveness and lead them to seek out other methods of treatment. The goal, of course, would be to ensure that each person suffering from sleep disorders seeks an effective treatment they will follow.

As more people are diagnosed with mild to moderate OSA, we may also begin to see an increase in patients seeking out dental appliances to treat their condition. These appliances are quickly becoming the preferred treatment method for individuals who find they aren’t compatible with CPAP therapy. They are also a great alternative to surgery and other options. The dental appliance helps support the airway to prevent obstruction. Each appliance is designed based on the individual needs of the patient. This ensures every patient gets the best possible treatment. Set up a consultation today to find out if you’re a candidate for this treatment option.

Call the Bethesda Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry today at (301) 530-3600 for more information on how you can track sleep disorders.