Loud snoring, restless sleep, morning headaches, and changes in mood are signs that someone may have sleep apnea, a disorder in which people stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. Most people with the disorder, which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke, are often unaware and go undiagnosed. To help solve this problem, one Ph.D. student has been working on an app for mobile devices to help detect sleep apnea. Eventually, he hopes it will be accurate enough to be used as a screening tool for the disorder.
Smartphone apps are already available to measure sleep activity such as tossing and turning, waking during the night, heavy breathing, and snoring, which could all be signs of a sleep disorder. Joachim Behar thought he might use these apps to detect sleep apnea, but after spending two months reviewing some 40 of these apps, he and his team at Oxford found them all lacking. They concluded that most were scientifically unsound and did not have any clinical evidence that they are accurate. Taking matters into his own hands, Behar designed SleepAp to help detect sleep apnea with the help of colleagues in Oxford’s department of engineering science. He also received support from the Oxford Centre for Affordable Technology, which is headed by his professor Gari Clifford, and the sleep unit at the Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine at Churchill Hospital.