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A smartphone for detecting sleep apnea at home

By 13 de November de 2019No Comments
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Photo: IBEC

A smartphone for detecting sleep apnea at home

Researchers from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) at the Barcelona Science Park (PCB) has developed a portable, cheap and non-invasive system to detect Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) at home, a disorder characterized by recurrent airflow cessation during sleep. Researchers propose a novel method consisting of analyzing acoustic signals recorded with a smartphone.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder characterized by recurrent airflow cessation during sleep that can affect sleep quality, leading to symptoms of varying severity. Its prevalence in the general population ranges from 9% to 38%, being higher in men, but it increases up to 90% in men and 78% in women in some elderly groups. However, despite these high numbers and the serious consequences, most OSA patients remain undiagnosed and untreated.

The reason: the “gold-standard” for OSA diagnosis, nocturnal polysomnography (PSG), is an intrusive technique which implies an overnight stay at hospital connected to a system that monitorises the activity of the heart, lungs and brain; breathing patterns, movements of the arms and legs, and blood oxygen levels during sleep, it also represents a high cost, and does not provide long-term information about patients’ condition.

Now, a new approach designed by the Biomedical signal processing and interpretation group at IBEC –and tested in collaboration with the Sleep Lab at Hospital Clínic of Barcelona– is not only able to detect sound from oral and nasal breathing during sleep at home and thus identify breathless events, but also to analyze the data with special algorithms developed at IBEC and to differentiate between apneas -complete cessation of airflow for more than10 s- and hypoapneas- a partial cessation of airflow for more than10 s.

According to the authors, the new results may be of great interest for clinicians to develop a screening and monitoring tool for millions of OSA patients at home. “We are now much closer to a real alternative for millions of people suffering apneas but not being diagnosed and treated yet” says Raimon Jané, principal investigator at IBEC, UPC professor and leader of this research.

Professor Raimon Jané and his group at the IBEC have been intensively working in the last years looking for mobile health (mHealth) solutions. Now, Jané with Yolanda Castillo and Ignasi Ferrer, both PhD students granted by la Caixa Foundation, have published a paper in IEEE Access, the Multidisciplinary Open Access Journal of IEEE.

► Reference article:  Castillo-Escario, Y., Ferrer-Lluis, I., Montserrat, J. M., Jané, R., (2019). Entropy analysis of acoustic signals recorded with a smartphone for detecting apneas and hypopneas: A comparison with a commercial system for home sleep apnea diagnosis IEEE Access 7, 128224-128241

► More information: IBEC website [+]