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New High-Tech Bandage Could Soon Diagnose Sleep Disorders

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Ever had one of those nights where you know you spent at least eight hours in bed but you wake up feeling exhausted, like you haven't slept at all? If it's a rare occurrence, you can chalk it up to just a rough night. But if it happens often—or if you also suffer from symptoms like daytime drowsiness, inability to focus, irritability, and loud snoring—you may have a condition called sleep apnea. Thanks to a new technology, getting a definitive diagnosis could be as easy as putting on a bandage.

Sleep apnea is an incredibly common sleep disorder, affecting 2 to 4 percent of all adults in the U.S., according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Men are more likely to be affected than women, but weight gain, age, and the structure of your airways can increase your risk. It can also happen as a consequence of illnesses that enlarge your tonsils or make your throat swell. (Here are some sleep apnea symptoms you could be missing.)

Having sleep apnea means you temporarily stop breathing in your sleep, for several seconds at a time and 30 times or more in an hour. No wonder you're waking up tired! You may be technically asleep but you're not getting any real rest. The sleep disorder also increases your risk of other health problems. It's been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and depression in previous studies. Worse, sufferers often aren't even aware it's happening.

Until recently, the only way to get an accurate diagnosis of sleep apnea was by doing a polysomnography test, also known as a sleep study, where you go spend a night in a sleep lab hooked up to machines and snoozing while researchers monitor you—not anyone's idea of a good time.

Now, researchers have developed the SomnaPatch, an adhesive patch that can diagnose sleep apnea just as well as polysomnography does, but in the comfort of your own home, according to Sleep. You simply put the patch on your forehead and go to sleep. It weighs less than an ounce and records nasal pressure, blood oxygen saturation, pulse rate, respiratory effort, sleep time, and body position. Plus it will be cheaper than doing a sleep test.

The SomnaPatch is still waiting for final approval by the FDA, but look for it to be coming to a bedroom near you soon—especially if you or your partner are heavy snorers.

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