Spanish Researchers Have Developed Optical Fiber Sensors To Detect Sleep Problems Such As Sleep Apnea

Spanish Researchers Have Developed Optical Fiber Sensors To Detect Sleep Problems Such As Sleep Apnea

The integration of optical fibers in mattresses could be used to detect sleep problems such as sleep apnea that affects about 40 million Americans. Researchers from Spain have designed, at laboratory scale, a system of optical fiber sensors that, when integrated into a mattress, allow non-invasive monitoring of movements and breathing and could be applied to detect sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea exposes to cardiovascular diseases and liver dysfunction

According to the results of the first tests carried out in the laboratory, these sensors could be applied in the future for the detection of sleep apnea and, in general, for cardiopulmonary monitoring.

Sleep apnea, which in the US affects about 40 million people, both men and women, can lead to several dysfunctions in the body and is a cardiometabolic risk factor for both children and adults. Sleep apnea can increase the cholesterol levels, infiltration of lipid substances in the walls of the arteries, or hepatic dysfunction.

“Optical fiber sensors have many advantages: it is very small, it weighs little, it can be easily integrated into many structures and it is immune to electromagnetic radiation,” said Salvador Sales, an author of the study.

According to Sales, “it also has its drawbacks, fundamentally that for its installation it is necessary to wire, which entails a cost and makes it not useful for certain applications”.

However, the system includes very low cost components

Plastic fibers, an Arduino microcontroller, and industrial CCDs have been combined to detect pressure variations.

It is a system that could be easily reproduced in a large-scale production process, according to the developers. Even more, after the evaluation of the first prototype, the researchers’ work focuses on improving data processing to avoid instability and on incorporating automatic learning techniques that facilitate the detection of respiratory anomalies in real patients.

The researchers also work on other applications of these optical fiber sensors, besides detecting sleep problems like sleep apnea, including their integration in a surgical robot, developed in collaboration with the University of Twente in the Netherlands.


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