Impacts of Fitbit Trackers and Fitness on Sleep Apnea
While it is not news that fitness has a definite role in counteracting sleep apnea, recent research has found that wearing a fitness tracker such as the Fitbit can monitor for symptoms of severe conditions such as sleep apnea. This choice by Fitbit to prioritize health concerns is bold and is already helping people live healthier lives. This discovery also announces the beginning of a brand new market for patients suffering from symptoms of sleep apnea that is greatly needed, because a lack of diagnosis is what currently causes many people to not even realize that they have sleep apnea in the first place.
Benefits of Fitness Trackers for Sleep Apnea
Research from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and a heart health startup proposes that the Fitbit and other fitness trackers are capable of correct diagnosing health problems such as sleep apnea and hypertension. The startup company, Cardiogram, and the Health Lab in UCSF are not affiliated with Fitbit, but the organizations determined that sleep apnea test results with the tracker have diagnosed sleep apnea accurately 82-90% of the time. The device was able to diagnose unusual heart rhythm correctly 97% of the time.
These findings will be reviewed in clinical trials to ensure the results are accurate, but as over 6,000 participants were involved, the technology is believed to effectively diagnose sleep apnea already. With these results, all of the wearable fitness bands that people already own could act as effective health monitors when connected to Cardiogram.
Sleep apnea is an illness where the normal breathing patterns of people stop and begin again repeatedly, and it impacts millions of individuals who often are not aware that they have the disorder in the first place. The American Sleep Apnea Association has reported that over 80% of Americans who have sleep apnea are not aware that they have it.
Turning Around Negative Health Situations
Amazingly, the Fitbit has already been able to turn negative health situations around. In some cases, as people are looking through the data, they have been alerted to potential emergencies. Concerned individuals have actually taken the fitness tracker results to their physicians, who have confirmed that there were sleep apnea issues for these patients. Extreme cases have confirmed that if the worried users had not visited their physician, they could have even died.
Despite the progression in outside apps such as Cardiogram, Fitbit has also placed an emphasis on confronting sleep apnea with its hardware. The new smartwatch, the Ionic, has a built-in optical sensor that can gather pertinent data regarding sleep apnea more effectively. While Fitbit is aware that the equipment cannot yet make a diagnosis due to complicated legal issues, the company is definitely aiming to progress to screenings and identification of not only sleep apnea symptoms but of other potential illnesses such as hypertension. Years ago it may have sounded impossible for individuals to monitor their health this precisely, but Fitbit has now actually made this idea a reality, and the technology should only improve from here.
The only roadblock for Fitbit could be the diagnosis process. Currently, a prescription treatment and clinical sleep study is the method of diagnosis for sleep apnea. Fitbit would either have to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration, or they could get validation separately; which is a lengthy process and would require ample proof. However, Fitbit has done business with consumers directly with previous devices, and this could be enough incentive for them to validate the product to continue working directly with consumers.
Another issue Fitbit could face is the fact that people tend to struggle with wearing fitness trackers because they are not always comfortable. However, if people had to decide between a Fitbit sleep tracking vs. an intrusive CPAP, it seems as if they would rather have a device on their wrist than one covering their mouth while they sleep.
Benefits of Fitness for Patients with Sleep Apnea
Exercise is the ideal method of sleep apnea treatment. While there are several known sleep apnea causes, the most common source of it is excess weight or obesity. Fitness has been shown to significantly reduce the severity of the condition, even if there are minimal changes in the actual weight of the person.
Exercising is an incredibly healthy activity that can dramatically reduce impacts of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) such as daytime weariness. Increased levels of fitness tend to make people more tired throughout the day, and as such, fitness can improve sleep efficiency and quality overall. People sleep sounder, stay asleep longer, and rest more completely after exercising.