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3 ways to tell if you have sleep apnea

3 ways to tell if you have sleep apnea
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Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most valuable things you can do for your health. When you’re asleep, your body is able to regrow and rejuvenate. Your bed is a factor, as are your sheets, and you want to make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit from both. We’re excited our sponsor Boll & Branch is making that easier by creating comfortable sheets made with organic cotton.

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For people with sleep apnea though, great cotton sheets might not be enough for a good night’s sleep, as being asleep is a potentially very dangerous time. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts repeatedly while they are asleep. Those with the disorder are at risk of high blood pressure, heart problems, liver problems, daytime fatigue, and Type 2 diabetes due to their inconsistent breathing.

Sleep apnea can be a difficult condition to diagnose. It requires a person being monitored for their entire sleeping period in a medical setting, sometimes multiple times, to prove breathing patterns are consistently irregular. Sleep studies like this are often expensive, but smartphones might be starting to change that. Apps have been developed that track a user’s sleep cycle and breathing patterns, which help diagnose sleep apnea, or at least rule it out, for very little cost. But do these apps work? See below for how some of the most popular sleep apnea apps fared.

Motion X SleepTracker 24/7

SleepTracker 24/7 by Motion X ranks #4 in medical apps in the Apple app store, and very popular with consumers for the wide variety of information it collects. Rather than just getting data while you’re asleep, SleepTracker 24/7 also keeps track of your heart rate throughout the day, and your activity levels. By taking this data, as well as noting snoring, breathing, and heart rate during a sleep cycle, the app can predict the best level of activity and the best bed and wake times to ensure the best night's sleep possible.

It’s the measuring of breathing and snoring that can help users with sleep apnea. The app boasts 90 percent accuracy in its readings when compared to sleep studies, so if the app is showing irregular or unusual breathing patterns, there might be cause for concern. Still, the app can’t actually diagnose the condition — and its observations aren’t perfect. If the app is used while left on a nightstand, for example, it becomes highly sensitive to compensate for its distance, and odd noises in a room or other activity can be picked up, and create unusual and inaccurate sleep charts.

Still, since one of the big concerns of sleep apnea is heart issues, an app that has activity alerts and monitors heart rate and weight can be helpful in ensuring a user is combating some effects of the disorder, even if they can’t reverse them entirely. SleepTracker 24/7’s popularity speaks to its effectiveness, and should be considered for those with sleep apnea.

SleepHealth

SleepHealth is an app that was developed by the American Sleep Apnea Association specifically to help users track their sleep, and to allow them to participate in an ongoing sleep study. Like other sleep tracking apps, SleepHealth tracks your physical activity, but for the most part, gets most of its information by asking for it, rather than tracking it independently.

Each day the app asks about your alertness level, and sleep habits, and there’s a sleep journal you can update daily with your own thoughts. Every three months, the app also sends surveys and activities to complete as a 7-Day SleepHealth Activity Check Up. SleepHealth is less a measuring tool to see how you’re doing, and more a place to record personal observations, with the benefit of having articles and tips available while you do so.

For those already diagnosed with sleep apnea, this app could be perfect for maintaining good sleeping habits, and managing the sleep disorder. It encourages activity, and it allows users to benefit others with sleep apnea, as all data, in a protected form, are sent back to the American Sleep Apnea Association for scientific analysis. The downside is, the app doesn’t track breathing independently, so if you only suspect sleep apnea is a problem, this app won’t help you reach a conclusion. Also, if you have difficulty keeping up with recording in the app, the information won’t be very useful for you, or for the research study. Additionally, the app isn’t very popular, with a 2.9/5 rating in the Apple app store, and users complain about its limited scope.

SleepHealth might be an app that’s good for a particular kind of person with sleep apnea. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you like it.

SnoreLab

Recommended highly in sleep apnea forums, and by actual doctors to their patients with snoring issues, SnoreLab is the #1 iOS and Android app for recording and tracking snoring. The app requires no calibration; you simply press record, and place it next to your bed. The app takes in sounds like snoring, sleep talking, and lack of breathing. From there, the app graphs the information overnight.

The sounds are given values of Quiet, Light, Loud, or Epic, allowing a user to see patterns, and improvement or worsening with logged Factors and Remedies. A Factor on a night might be alcohol, or having a stuffy nose, and a Remedy could be using a humidifier, or a mouthpiece. If a person snores a lot after drinking, or snores more quietly with a humidifier, that pattern can be observed, and acted on accordingly.

For those with sleep apnea, this app can help figure out some level of diagnosis, as considerable Quiet periods might indicate some breathing issues. Once again though, the app is no substitute for a medical diagnosis, nor can it guarantee efficacy of Remedies. Also, it only tracks snoring, which might be limiting depending on your needs with sleep apnea. There’s also a need to remember to log information in the app, although less so than with SleepHealth. SnoreLab might be perfect for a specific sleep apnea grievance, and alerting a user to an issue, otherwise it might not be much use at all.

The Verdict

Overall, sleep apnea apps aren’t nearly as developed or accurate as full-blown sleep studies, but they show promise. Apps can successfully track a person’s sleep cycle, and monitor some breathing, particularly noise like snoring. Still, the best they can offer is ruling out sleep apnea, not fully diagnosing it. Diagnoses should still come from a medical professional.

Apps can help manage sleep apnea though, allowing a person to keep track of their sleep patterns and habits, and, by learning this, ensure they’re getting the most restful sleep possible. They can also help track activity, and ensure a person is leading a healthy lifestyle outside of their sleep apena to help combat some of the effects of the disorder.

With good, restful sleep and awareness of one’s body comes good health, and those with sleep apnea need good sleep and good awareness more than anyone to combat the disorder. Sleep apnea apps can help with that, just as sleep apps can help with rest in general.

Click here to learn more about how tech can help you get a good night’s rest.

What can also help with a good night’s sleep is soft sheets from fair trade sources. Boll & Branch offers just that, and if you don’t have the most comfortable month of your life, you can return the sheets at no cost.

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GET A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP  

A good night's sleep is what you need to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day, but more often than not, it's easier said than done.  

Click here for tips about how to track and help your sleep cycle.

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