Sleep monitor no substitute for GP

Poor quality sleep is known to compromise good health. Sufferers of sleep apnoea are especially at risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even erectile dysfunction.

And in a vicious circle, those who already live with these conditions – apart from failed erections – are more likely to develop sleep apnoea.

Unlike light to moderate snoring, sleep apnoea is a potentially deadly disorder that restricts breathing, which leads to a quickened heart rate and higher blood pressure.

Frequent apnoea episodes can also result in impaired liver, metabolic and nerve function, according to sleep clinic operator Healthy Sleep.

If you wake up tired after a full night’s rest and you suspect you may have this disorder, it is important to speak to your doctor.

In the meantime, there are a variety of devices you can use to track your slumber. They won’t be able to diagnose any medical conditions, but they can you figure out if you are getting enough shut-eye.

Fitbit’s wristband activity trackers collect your inactivity (sleep) data. It shines an infrared light on your skin to track the heart rate and transmits the information to an app on your smartphone.

The company is working on a model that will also detect sleep apnoea, although it hasn’t revealed too much detail about this project. What we do know is that it will work by assessing whether there is enough oxygen in your body depending on the ‘redness’ of your blood.

Bright red blood indicates good oxygenation, while bluish-red means there is insufficient oxygen.

Ethan Green, a psychologist, author and confessed insomniac has compiled a list of top sleep trackers on his website www.nosleeplessnights.com.

Many sleep specialists are not fans of trackers because their accuracy is hard to verify.

In one informal study, neurologist Dr Christopher Winter, also known as the ‘sleep whisperer’,  trialled five different monitors in one night at a sleep clinic. They ranged in ability, methodology and price – from $600 for a top-of-the-range Philips Actiwatch Spectrum to a 99 cent iTunes app.

Dr Winter compared the data each device collected with the thorough investigation of the clinic’s polysomnographic test, but he could not form a conclusion.

“With only one night of data collected, I am reluctant to declare winners and losers, as I think that based upon their individual costs and abilities, each has its place in fitness and sleep monitoring,” he wrote.

If you want an accurate assessment about whether your heavy snoring is setting you up for serious medical conditions don’t rely on a sleep monitor – speak to your doctor.

Does your partner complain about your snoring? Do you wake up just as tired as when you went to bed? Would you consider spending a night at a sleep clinic?

Related articles:
Gizmos to help you sleep
Poor sleep linked to Alzheimer’s
What poor sleep does to your body

Written by Olga Galacho

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