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Mobile app improves adherence to sleep apnoea treatment

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Researchers in the US have developed a new tool that monitors and improves adherence to sleep apnoea therapy.

Sleeping with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP machine, is the most effective treatment for sleep apnoea.

However, getting patients to use the devices consistently remains a major challenge.

Esra Tasali, MD, Director of the UChicago Sleep Center and senior author of the paper, said:

Sleep apnoea can be effectively treated only when CPAP is used during the entire time spent in bed sleeping.

“We know that sleep patterns can vary considerably, so one-size-fits-all adherence guidelines are insufficient for most patients.

“By developing a tool for personalised CPAP treatment for sleep apnoea, we are providing an opportunity for patients and providers to deliver and track therapy based on individual need.”

For the study, the researchers modified a weight-loss app they developed that tracks diet, physical activity and weight.

To support weight loss, the app integrates information from a wearable sleep and activity tracker and weight scale.

As excess weight is a major risk factor for sleep apnoea, the investigators modified the app to have it chart patients’ CPAP wear time and check it against a goal of wearing the device for 100 per cent of time spent sleeping.

“The patients wanted to see the 100% goal displayed in the app as a target to reach every night,” Tasali said.

By showing progress towards a sleep goal alongside other icons that track progress toward diet, weight and activity goals, the app helps people see how making improvements in one health behaviour can make it easier to make changes in others.

Bonnie Spring, PhD, of Northwestern University, said:

“That’s important because insufficient sleep, poor quality diet, physical inactivity, and overweight tend to occur together.

“It’s a great efficiency to have tools and strategies that can help people change multiple risk behaviours at the same time.”

In response to patients’ feedback, the researchers added features like push notifications to remind users to wear their CPAP before bedtime.

The new CPAP tracking technology could be used by doctors to deliver more comprehensive and effective sleep apnoea treatment.

Tasali said

“Right now, it’s hard for providers to counsel the patient on how to optimally use their CPAP machine, as well as for the patient to grasp how much use is adequate every night.

“So, not only could this app be used as a self-management tool for patients, but also as a more accurate and personalised treatment efficacy monitoring method for healthcare providers.”

The researchers are now planning additional studies to test the tool against traditional methods for monitoring CPAP use to determine whether it improves patient adherence to therapy.

Meanwhile, Tasali hopes to study the impact of percent CPAP adherence on health outcomes such as blood pressure and sugar levels.

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