The saying “There’s an app for that!” seems to pop up everywhere these days, thanks to the rise of smartphones and tablets, and the healthcare industry certainly hasn’t been immune to this trend. Apps that monitor sleeping habits have become especially popular, although they’re primarily limited to monitoring sleep quality in terms of REM cycles and hours in bed.
Thanks to a team of researchers and program developers from Johns Hopkins, however, there’s a new app that could actually help physicians and sleep specialists diagnose sleep disorders like sleep apnea and parasomnia — all just by using a smartphone.
The app, called MySleep101, was developed to help medical professionals who don’t have specialized knowledge in sleep disorders; primary care physicians and nurses, for example, often have trouble detecting sleep disorders (partly because the patients themselves are often unaware that they suffer from a sleep disorder at all).
Unlike other apps that pertain to sleep quality and health, MySleep101 was developed to be an approachable and easy-to-use educational tool for healthcare professionals who may not have the time or the financial resources to learn about sleep disorders in depth. Using recent data from a variety of scientific research projects, the Johns Hopkins team created a multimedia learning approach that uses short video clips, animated characters, and succinct lists that provide specific information about various sleep disorders, what may cause them, what symptoms appear most frequently, and what could happen if the disorder goes untreated.
Ideally, MySleep101 will help primary care workers to determine if a patient likely suffers from a sleep disorder and should see a specialist for a full analysis.
“It is often difficult to change the way we look at sleep in the medical community because of the fast food nation approach to practicing medicine,” said Mark Hixon, CEO of 1800CPAP.com. “We are stuck in a bad cycle where doctors are forced to see as many patients as they can in a day to make a living.”
Although sleep disorders are notoriously difficult to detect and diagnose, it’s estimated that about 80 million Americans have trouble sleeping through the night, and at least 60 million of these patients would meet the criteria of having a sleep disorder, even though many sufferers are never treated or diagnosed.
“Even though these doctors know that sleep is one of the most important parts of good health, there just never seems to be enough time to get to the root of any problem,” continued Hixon. “So often times meds are prescribed or referrals are made to specialists because the doctors don’t have the time to really explore the foundation of the patients ailments.”
Additionally, as Health Canal notes, as an added bonus, healthcare professionals using MySleep101 will able to monitor their own sleep habits and maintain healthy sleep schedules, which makes them more likely to emphasize the importance of sleep when talking with patients.
“If we as a whole can start educating ourselves and paying more attention to our sleep, we can start chipping away at several potential health problems in the future,” said Hixon.