More than a million Britons with the most common sleep disorder could be diagnosed in days thanks to a stick-on ‘pebble’ that detects breathing patterns
- Device called AcuPebble sticks to the neck and can diagnose in a few days
- It records sounds and vibrations generated by the lungs and heart while the patient is sleeping
- Currently, patients referred for sleep clinic monitoring wait up to eight months
- NHS doctors testing the device say it is just as effective as existing testing techniques
More than a million Britons with the most common sleep disorder can soon be diagnosed within days without leaving the house – thanks to a sticking sensor they receive in the mail.
Sticking to the neck, the pebble-like device detects breathing patterns related to sleep apnea, which affects approximately 1.5 million Britons.
Currently, patients referred for follow-up in a hospital sleep clinic wait up to eight months for an examination before being diagnosed.
If untreated, the condition in which heavy snoring interferes with breathing increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Now a device called AcuPebble can shorten the diagnosis time to a few days.
Sleep partner: The AcuPebble on the neck records heart and lung vibrations and sends data to an app, detecting breathing patterns related to sleep apnea
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…between sepsis and blood poisoning?
The terms are similar in that they both mean life-threatening illness due to infection. But they describe slightly different parts of the process.
Septicemia simply means the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream that causes an infection. It is often called septicemia and shows symptoms such as chills, fever, and a fast heart rate or breathing.
Sepsis is the immune system’s extreme response to that blood poisoning.
When it detects the bacteria in the blood, it pumps out massive amounts of chemical messengers that cause inflammation throughout the body, punch holes in healthy blood vessels, cause blood clots and – in the worst case – lead to fatal organ failure.
It works by recording the sounds and vibrations generated by the lungs and heart while the patient is sleeping. The data is sent wirelessly to an app on the patient’s smartphone, which shares the results with his or her doctor.
NHS doctors testing the device at the Royal Free Hospital in London say the results of a study of 200 patients show that it is just as effective as existing testing techniques.
“It means we can diagnose more patients faster and reduce hospital visits,” says Dr. Swapna Mandal, sleep apnea specialist at Royal Free.
Muscles in the airways naturally relax when we fall asleep. But people with sleep apnea suffer from complete collapse of the muscles in the upper trachea, which can temporarily interrupt breathing.
Those with the condition will often make choking, panting, and snorting noises and waking up often – sometimes as often as every few minutes.
The disruption in breathing leads to spikes in blood pressure, which puts pressure on the heart.
A 2015 study in the International Journal of Cardiology found that patients were twice as likely as people without the condition to have a stroke, and were 80 percent more likely to have heart disease. Sleep apnea is especially common in overweight middle-aged men.
Patients will often feel extremely tired no matter how much they sleep – and their partner may report snoring loudly.
Muscles in the airways naturally relax when we fall asleep. But people with sleep apnea suffer from a complete collapse of the muscles in the upper trachea (photo file)
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Diagnosis involves monitoring while asleep, either with an overnight stay in a sleep clinic or with equipment for home use, but many people don’t realize they have a problem.
Only one in five people in the UK who have it is officially diagnosed. The AcuPebble is applied to the bottom of the throat before going to sleep, just below the Adam’s apple. Before patients go to sleep, they turn on the linked smartphone app.
During sleep, sensors track changes in sound and vibrations generated during breathing and send the measurements wirelessly to the app. If the patient reaches a high level of fluctuations, sleep apnea is diagnosed.
During the trial at the Royal Free Hospital, the device was able to accurately detect the condition in all patients.
Tim St Jean, 48, an engineer from Barnet, North London, was one of the first in the UK to try out the monitor.
He began to snore profusely after arriving after a car accident in 2018, which cost him his left leg below the knee. “My teenage children heard me snoring at night from their bedrooms down the hall,” says Tim.
His doctor referred him to the Royal Free and he was given an AcuPebble device. Tim says, “It was really easy to use.”
Doctors diagnosed moderate sleep apnea and stated that the AcuPebble could recognize it just as well as the standard methods. Tim has been treated with a compressed air mask, which he has been wearing at night since December last year.
“Now I sleep through the night and I don’t feel drowsy at all during the day,” he says.
“It made a big difference – and the kids don’t complain about the noise anymore.”