Smart sleep analysis

Aug 02, 2013
Thanks to specially developed software, this smartwatch can be used for sleep analysis: a benefit for all those who suffer from sleep disorders. Credit: Fraunhofer IGD

Sleep disorders are a widespread problem. With the aid of smartwatches, researchers are analyzing sleep movement patterns and assisting doctors with diagnosis and therapy. Burnout and diabetes patients stand to benefit.

Tonight will be another sleepless night for countless people, who will toss and turn for hours. And when they finally drift off, they will wake up with a start a short while later. If their disorder becomes chronic, sufferers often take part in medical sleep studies in an attempt to uncover the reasons behind their . Currently, these studies employ specially developed, very expensive intelligent watches. Doctors read out the data recorded by the watches just once a week in the research lab, which slows down analysis.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD have now developed software for commercially available smartwatches, so that they too can be used in sleep research. "A can do many of the things a smartphone can do: it tells the time and allows wearers to check their text messages and e-mails and find out what's going on in social networks. But smartwatches can also do a whole lot more. These tiny computers fitted with hold out many exciting possibilities in the field of ," says Gerald Bieber, a scientist at Fraunhofer IGD. The sleep developed by Bieber and his team helps to detect anomalies in sleep as soon as they occur. Information such as and duration and quality of sleep is derived from the watch's and then analyzed. "Our algorithm detects movements and compares them against normal sleeping and waking patterns. The sensors register both micro-movements triggered by breathing or pulse and macro-movements such as twitches of the leg." Patients can send the recorded data straight from their home to the lab via the smartwatch's radio module.

Burnout from chronic sleep deficit

"For the doctor in charge of the patient's care, a digital sleep diary like this is an important tool for diagnosing and for choosing the right therapy," explains Bieber. "Sleep quality is an important indicator of burnout." According to studies, it is chronic sleep deficit and not stress that is the real cause of burnout. There are many reasons for people having difficulty falling asleep, having interrupted sleep or having non-relaxing sleep: anything from the side effects of medication to too little movement during the day, or even just the wrong mattress.

In future, Bieber and his colleagues also want to detect unconsciousness in sleep. This is an issue that can affect diabetics and epileptics. Type 1 quite frequently fall into a state of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) during the night, which can result in the patient entering a life-threatening diabetic coma. The software installed in the smartwatch would trigger an alarm in such situations and notify family members or the patient's doctor. The smartwatch researchers are currently in talks with hospitals and soon hope to obtain test data from coma patients, in other words real sample data for comparison purposes.

At present, the smartwatch with the Fraunhofer software is being used in a pilot study. In collaboration with Vital & Physio health resort and mattress manufacturer Malie, the scientists are studying the sleep behavior of test subjects on back-friendly mattresses. The key issue they are investigating is whether the "right" mattress can help people with sleep disorders and enable them to sleep soundly through the night. The information the study will yield on activity patterns and sleeping behavior could be useful in fields such as combating stress and burnout. Fraunhofer IGD is responsible for technology development and modification within the study.

Saving electricity while you sleep

What is more, people suffering from disorders will not be the only ones to benefit from the smartwatch app – it also offers homeowners and renters an opportunity to save on their electricity bills. "Eleven percent of energy consumption comes from devices in stand-by mode. Because our sensitive algorithm is capable of detecting whether, for example, the watch wearer has fallen asleep in front of the TV, the smartwatch could then switch off the TV automatically via a radio signal. Modern televisions already contain the necessary equipment, but older models can also be retrofitted with special network outlets," says Bieber. In future, it will also be possible to switch off such diverse household objects as alarm systems, wireless internet routers, and lights using this technology.

Explore further: To sleep: perchance to dream ...

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

To sleep: perchance to dream ...

Jul 24, 2013

"Sleep is the best medicine," says the old proverb. But many adults don't benefit enough from sleep, with as many as 60 percent reporting sleep problems at least several nights a week.

Sleep tips for summer nights

Jul 08, 2013

(HealthDay)—Those extra hours of daylight in the summer contribute to sleep problems experienced by many Americans, experts say.

No link between sleep, fatigue level: research

Aug 01, 2013

New Swedish research has shown that there is little or no relation between how much sleep people get at night and how fatigued they feel, the head researcher said Thursday.

Researchers explore childhood development and sleep patterns

Jul 24, 2013

Be it the stress of poor work-life balance and everyday living or the seemingly endless stream of technological advancement unleashed globally on a daily basis, sleep patterns have become neglected for some and nightmarish ...

Bad sleep around full moon is no longer a myth

Jul 25, 2013

Many people complain about poor sleep around full moon. Scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland now report evidence that lunar cycles and human sleep behavior are in fact connected. The results have been published ...

Recommended for you

A smart prosthetic knee with in-vivo diagnoses

Apr 22, 2014

The task was to develop intelligent prosthetic joints that, via sensors, are capable of detecting early failure long before a patient suffers. EPFL researchers have taken up the challenge.

Old tires become material for new and improved roads

Apr 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —Americans generate nearly 300 million scrap tires every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Historically, these worn tires often end up in landfills or, when illegally ...

Students take clot-buster for a spin

Apr 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —In the hands of some Rice University senior engineering students, a fishing rod is more than what it seems. For them, it's a way to help destroy blood clots that threaten lives.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Jacket works like a mobile phone

A fire is raging in a large building and the fire leader is sending a message to all firefighters at the scene. But they don't need a mobile phone – they simply check their jacket sleeves and read the message ...

Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

"I think one can argue that if we were to follow a strong nuclear energy pathway—as well as doing everything else that we can—then we can solve the climate problem without doing geoengineering." So says Tom Wigley, one ...

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

High-calorie and low-nutrient foods in kids' TV

Fruits and vegetables are often displayed in the popular Swedish children's TV show Bolibompa, but there are also plenty of high-sugar foods. A new study from the University of Gothenburg explores how food is portrayed in ...