If you snore, wake up with a dry mouth, or struggle with excessive daytime sleepiness, you might have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). But, come this summer, you may be able to detect it at home by using a smartwatch you already own. 

When the software rolls out in the third quarter of 2024, the Samsung Galaxy Watch will be able to alert you to signs of moderate to severe OSA while you sleep. To use the new feature—the first of its kind to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—adults over age 22 wear the watch to track their sleep for two nights in a 10-day period, ensuring that they sleep for at least four hours at a time.

During that time, the Galaxy Watch’s BioActive Sensor tracks blood oxygen levels throughout the user’s slumber, allowing them to view Samsung’s Health Monitor app on their compatible phone to see if those levels drop— a key sign of sleep apnea. The software estimates an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) based on the number of times blood oxygen levels drop due to partially or fully blocked breathing (called apneas and hypopneas). 

Although 30 million American adults are estimated to have sleep apnea, the American Medical Association claims just 6 million have an official diagnosis for the condition. The Galaxy Watch detects OSA, specifically, which occurs when your airway partially or fully closes and you temporarily stop breathing (Another type, not yet detected by smart watches, is central sleep apnea, which happens when your brain doesn’t send the right signals for breathing.) 

The result of OSA is loud snoring and gasping for air while you sleep, as well as morning headaches and daytime sleepiness. Without treatment, OSA could lead to developing high blood pressure, heart problems, and decreased brain function.

What about Apple Watch users? Although Bloomberg reported in November 2023 that Apple has plans to roll out its own sleep apnea detection system, it hasn’t yet received FDA approval—and the company is navigating a patent lawsuit over a blood oxygen monitoring feature, says tech website The Verge.  

Although the Galaxy watch may help you detect signs of OSA, a sleep study is still the gold standard for diagnosing the condition, says the American Academy of Family Physicians. Therefore, watch-wearers concerned about what their watch finds should follow up with a physician for official diagnosis and treatment.

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8 Sources

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