The Apple Watch is everywhere, a simple, sleek wrist device that helps athletes meet their exercise goals and monitor their heart rates. These watches are excellent for the layman as well, as the watch reminds people to get moving every hour and monitors heart rate. However, can this watch help detect severe health issues? It has come into question that the Apple Watch may be a detector of certain conditions that affect the heart, such as sleep apnea.


What is Sleep Apnea?

               The term sleep apnea is thrown around a lot, however, many people really only know that it has to do with sleep and that it is not something one wants to have. Sleep Apnea is a potentially dangerous sleeping condition, as it can lead to heart problems. During sleep, a person will periodically stop and start breathing, as opposed to breathing in a steady, slow rhythm, as a healthy sleeper will do. There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex. Those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea experience a literal obstruction within their trachea due to relaxation of throat muscles. An individual with central sleep apnea has difficulty breathing during sleep due to the brain not sending the right signals to control the individual’s breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure and heart problems, Type 2 Diabetes, and liver function issues, among other conditions.


How is Sleep Apnea Detected or Diagnosed?

Those who are suspected to have sleep apnea will be sent to a sleep specialist and will be subject to either a Nocturnal Polysomnography or sleep tests to be taken at home. Both tests monitor the patient’s heart rate, air flow, and oxygen level. The Nocturnal Polysomnography is more comprehensive and also monitors brain and lung activity and bodily movements.        


What Sort of Monitoring does the Apple Watch Use?

The Apple Watch monitors the heart rate of the wearer with up to a 97 percent accuracy, according to studies done by the University of California San Francisco. Assuming the user wears his or her watch 24 hours a day, this watch can record all changes in heart rate and records these changes. Having a severe increase in heart rate, rather than a natural slight drop, during sleep is a major symptom of sleep apnea. The Apple Watch and other similar wrist devices helps the individual monitor and take notice of these abnormalities.


The Apple Watch is a definite help when it comes to helping to diagnose sleep apnea, however, it is still only a tool for the wearer to monitor heart rate. There are other potential causes for an increased heart rate during sleep, including various forms of tachycardia (a rapid and abnormal heart rate), or other heart issues or underlying disease. Always go to a licensed physician when it comes to potential issues to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment.