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How the Internet of Things is Revolutionizing Sleep

By Vidhu Dev

PharmD, Vice President, Rx to OTC Switch R&D

Between 2013 and 2014, the United States reportedly slept less than the rest of the world. Since then, the country climbed to the middle of the charts, but maintains a relatively short snooze time from a global perspective.

Sleep deprivation in the United States has become a rampant problem, with the Center of Disease Control and Prevention labeling insufficient sleep a public health epidemic. According to a recent study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, more than a third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis in what they’ve coined “The Great Sleep Recession.”

Back in 2014, the sleep quality in the U.S. was not good. Source: Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock Data Report

Its for these reasons that back in 2015, the mHealth and Home Monitoring Report found that sleep therapy was the fastest growing segment of the Internet of Things healthcare market, with the number of remotely monitored patients also increasing 170% in the same year.

Thus far, the explosion of these devices in the market has had the effect of elevating public awareness around the damaging effects of sleep deprivation and low quality sleep. The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index for Q1 2018 reported moderately positive increases in several categories, primarily sleep duration driven by impressive gains in weekday sleep. Looking to the future, BCC research estimates the global market for sleep aids to reach $76.7 billion by 2019, with much of the activity here being technological in nature.

Interconnected devices offer a promising solution to the ‘United States of Insomnia,’ tracking sleep throughout the night to obtain qualitative sleep measurements. This is achieved by monitoring the respiration per minute (RPM) rate and variability to identify REM sleep. Over time, this data — which can range from sleep period and number of awakenings to the duration it takes an individual to fall asleep — is used to discover trends, painting a comprehensive picture of a user’s sleep quality. Additional innovation in environmental sensors deepens our understanding of sleep disorder triggers through variables like temperature, humidity, air quality and light.

“Sleep disorders increase mortality, morbidity, performance problems, accidents, injuries and health‐care utilization, while decreasing quality of life and social and family adjustment”
~ John A. Caldwell, Joseph J. Knapik, Harris R. Lieberman. Journal of Sleep Research.

According to the American Sleep Association, 50–70 million US adults have a sleep disorder which impacts not just their rest but their day to day wakefulness as a result. Many people don’t realize that their snoring, for instance, is a common symptom of a condition called sleep apnea, characterized by obstructions in the airways that create pauses in breathing during slumber. This leads to lower blood oxygen saturation and potentially more severe conditions. As an effective countermeasure, medical IoT devices exist to lighten and in many cases to alleviate sleep apnea or else cure it altogether. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is one such tool that collects and analyze nightly data to adjust air pressure in a person’s throat accordingly in real-time. myAir app by ResMed is an example of how CPAP data can be used for sleep tracking in an individualized manner with the ability to provide sleep tracking, personalized feedback, and coaching to the end user.

Currently, research at the scale of a nation’s sleeping patterns relies on polling individuals, which doesn’t yield precise data due to the qualitative nature of a survey. As such, new methods of garnering objective sleep measurements are in order.

The Internet of Things will soon be at the epicenter of America’s sleep routine, calculating, counseling and inconspicuously fine-tuning our way to deeper rest and energetic vigor.

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