With the FDA announcing that it plans to start performing oversight on health-related apps for smartphones and tablets, now is probably a good time to talk about the burgeoning marketplace for sleep apnea apps. We have long joked that there’s an app for everything, but could there really be an app for sleep apnea?

What Sleep Apnea Apps Do

There are actually quite a few apps that are marketed to help people who know or suspect they suffer from sleep apnea. Some are free, while others cost a dollar or so. They generally incorporate a number of popular features.

Sleep Apnea Diagnostic Quizzes: This is one of the most common features included in sleep apnea apps. There are many diagnostic tools designed for sleep apnea that are based on simple questions that your app can ask you. By providing answers, you can get some basic information on whether you are at an elevated risk for sleep apnea. Some of the quizzes include the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, the Berlin Questionnaire, and the STOP-BANG tool. All of these are preliminary screening tools and can tell you whether you should seek additional evaluation.

Motion tracking: Many of these apps use the accelerometer in your phone to detect how much you’re moving around at night. To do this, you typically have to put the phone on your bed or on your person.

Sleep cycle tracking: Many apps advertise that they can track your sleep cycle to tell you how much time you spend in the various stages of sleep, such as the important REM-sleep stage, but these apps typically work just by extrapolating from motion tracking data. Although motion and sleep stage are often correlated, just because you’re not moving doesn’t mean you’re sleeping well.

Sleep sound recording: Many sleep apnea apps incorporate recording of sleep sounds. They will either turn your phone on automatically to record loud sounds or record the sound of your sleep throughout the night. They may also include representative recordings so you can compare the sound of your breathing to get an idea about whether you are just snoring or may have sleep apnea.

Sleep diaries and tips: Many apps include a function that allows you to record data about your sleep habits, such as when you went to bed and got up, and how you feel upon waking or through the day. They may also include tips to help you get to sleep faster at night.

Are They Worth It?

Some of the tools included in these sleep apnea apps can be helpful for someone who suspects they have a problem, but aren’t yet ready to talk to their doctor. Being able to hear your own sleep sounds may be very helpful, and the sleep diaries and tips are convenient for helping you get better sleep at night.

But it’s important to remember that these apps don’t actually give your phone the power to diagnose sleep apnea, and you shouldn’t rely on the outcome of tests on your phone.

If you want help getting an appropriate sleep apnea diagnosis, please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha, Nebraska today, and we can help you get an accurate diagnosis from a trained physician.