Samsung gets FDA approval for sleep apnea detection on smartwatch


Samsung announced this morning that the Galaxy Watch line has received FDA approval for the detection of sleep apnea. The move is significant for the smartwatch category, where health and fitness now make up the majority of new features. In recent years, the industry has focused on heart monitoring and blood oxygen detection, searching for the next big breakthrough.

Non-invasive blood glucose monitoring is an often-mentioned possibility. This would certainly be a game-changer for millions of people living with diabetes. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a widespread problem in its own right, with an estimated 39 million Americans living with the condition, according to the National Council on Aging.

Globally, that number stands at 936 million – a huge figure for a potentially fatal disease. Worse still, most people who have it have not been diagnosed. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates this figure to be 80% of those affected.

OSA is the more common of the two varieties of sleep apnea (along with central sleep apnea). It finds the sleeper’s upper airway blocked, thereby restricting breathing. This can increase the risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney failure, high blood pressure and stroke, among others.

“The sleep apnea feature will allow users over the age of 22 who have not been diagnosed with sleep apnea to detect signs of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) over a monitoring period of two nights, a common and chronic sleeping condition that often goes undiagnosed and untreated,” Samsung writes. “To use this feature, users will simply be able to track their sleep twice for more than four hours over a ten-day period.”

The Galaxy Watch isn’t the first consumer product to promise sleep apnea tracking. The very good Sleep Pad from Withings also offers this functionality. Towards the start of the pandemic, the French company also announced a watch presenting this functionality.


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