January 12, 2009
Almost always, the resources and topics covered in this blog are free and are online resources. I don't expect to make this a regular feature as there are other places that beautifully collect and review nifty new tech gadgets. Someday I'll do a separate post about how to find other cool toys like this.
Today, I just wanted to mention SleepTracker. You see, I think mentally I've been a little slow, in part because I tend to work too hard, too many hours, in too many places, and don't get enough sleep. Not to mention that I wake up at the drop of a hat, and usually wake before the alarm goes off. I've been like that at least since high school. I am going to use that chronic fatigue and resultant mental fog as an excuse for thinking SleepTracker is interesting and also for not initially thinking of its potential for health applications.
First off, what is SleepTracker.
Sounds pretty interesting so far. I noticed this a couple months ago, and thought, "Wow, I wish I could afford one of these; what a neat idea!" I kept seeing it, and kept thinking about it. So what does it do?
Track your sleep patterns, store the data, allow you to download it to your computer, and then select the optimal wake time and send the alarm to either an audible or vibrate alarm on your wrist.
Today I sent the link to a friend of mine who is a doc (Hi, Holly!), who replied observing it might be helpful for folks with sleep apnea.
Right. Health application. Have I been asleep or what?
My son has sleep apnea, my ex has sleep apnea, my mom has sleep apnea ... probably my dad and some of my sibs, too, but who knows? I have a good friend who has insomnia, pretty bad case of it, and my daughter accused me of having it also. (I say I don't, and just had trouble sleeping with a snorer in the same room.) I know several kids who had sleep terrors when little (nasty business). Other sleep disorders include narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, sleep walking/talking, grinding your teeth, sleep hypnea, and more. Then there are folks who are tired or fatigued for other reasons -- fibromyalgia, anemia, etc. Sleep disorders are associated with several childhood behavior disorders as well, such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.
So, what about this nifty gadget, the SleepTracker? Well, a couple of thoughts. First off, those doctor-prescribed diagnostic sleep tests are a royal pain -- complicated and expensive. You have to go into the hospital overnight, they hook you up with a bunch of electrodes on you legs, chest and scalp. It is messy. Not to mention the breath-sensing tubes. This is what it looks like (my daughter's drawing of my son's test.)
He was miserable, to put it mildly. To be fair, my mother never minded her sleep tests.
Well, the SleepTracker is pretty pricey for an individual at $179 for the most useful version of the tool, but for insurance purposes, that could be a whole lot cheaper than paying the hospital and staff for the overnight stay that is now the preliminary screening of a sleep disorder. I could see lending a SleepTracker to a patient to wear at home for a week, uploading the sleep data to a central site for clinical review. That would just be for the data collection function of the gadget.
I assume it really does work for the other side of the function -- waking you up at an optimal time, which means it would be therapeutically useful for people with sleep disorders. If folks are waking up less tired, they might gradually find it easier to sleep at night. Good sleep can also help control and prevent seizures in susceptible people, as well as stress, anxiety, and other health issues. The first thing they tell you to do for treating a sleep disorder is to follow good sleep hygiene -- no caffine, no alcohol, a standard sleep schedule.
Sleep Education: Preventing Parasomnias: http://www.sleepeducation.com/Topic.aspx?id=62
Getting good quality sleep can help prevent and sometimes even cure a sleep disorder. In which case, the cost of a tool like this could easily pay for itself. What do you think? Would insurance cover this? Probably need more research, but there are articles on home monitoring of sleep disorders using both wrist and finger actigraphy, so there is some real potential here.
Now, I'm sure the sleep specialists are already aware of this, and obviously have similar tools. It is great to see something like this being made available to the general public. If you are someone lucky enough to be able to afford this on your own, it might help either provide useful data to your clinician or might help you self-manage sleep problems to prevent any kind of sleep disorder that would require medical assessment or intervention.
For more information on sleep disorders, check out:
MedlinePlus: Sleep Disorders: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sleepdisorders.html
National Sleep Foundation: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/
Sleep Education (American Academy of Sleep Medicine): http://www.sleepeducation.com/