We’ve been talking before about how wearable tech can be used to potentially spot people’s risk for sleep apnea, but it seems that the technological progress is amazingly fast, outstripping our ability to really understand how it works.

Those are some of the insights coming from a large study showing that Apple Watch data fed into an AI known as DeepHeart could predict sleep apnea with an up to 90% accuracy using just one week’s worth of data, a figure that researchers say is only improving.

Study shows apple watch can catch signs of sleep apnea.

People Ready to Be Diagnosed

When the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and software company Cardiogram put out a call for people to participate in this pioneering study, more than 30,000 people downloaded the app, and more than 6000 of these users were recruited to participate in the study.

The data from participants gave DeepHeart more than 30 billion data points to develop its own algorithm. And it developed a remarkably accurate one.

Developers Don’t Know How It Works

There are some significant challenges in predicting sleep apnea using just the Apple Watch. The watch only senses heart rate and movement. It doesn’t identify blood oxygen saturation or breathing rate. So it has to extrapolate those vital elements of a sleep test from the only data it has.

One of the most mystifying things about this study is that programmers and researchers themselves don’t know how the algorithm works. It was developed completely by DeepHeart, which one of the software company’s founders described as “kind of a foreign form of intelligence.” We don’t know how they think. But this new study shows that whatever they’re doing, works.

It’s Not a True Diagnosis

Of course, it’s important to understand the limitations of this kind of device. Legally, only doctors can diagnose you with a medical condition. Anything else is just a guess or an estimate or a recommendation. So, despite the impressive accuracy of this off-the-shelf app that can be easily downloaded, users shouldn’t trust its diagnosis. Also, although the Cardiogram app is free, and it does provide sleep data, it’s unclear how much most users will benefit from DeepHeart’s analysis. This algorithm may be restricted to only specific users selected for study. 

Instead, people should look at the data as an important assessment of their health and follow-up on the recommendation to seek out a true diagnosis that takes into account all the necessary data to diagnose sleep apnea.

From Diagnosis to Treatment

Diagnosis is a vital first step in helping people avoid the serious health effects of sleep apnea, but it is still just a first step. Next, you should consult with your sleep doctor and a sleep dentist to help you understand your treatment options and find the one that’s right for you.

If you are looking for help with sleep apnea treatment in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.