A mobile phone or an MP3 player detects if you're sleeping soundly
The developers, Technical Developer, Vilppu Tuominen and R&D Manager,
Väinö Virtanen hope that the new application will benefit, for example,
people in developing countries or whose health care services do not cover
sleep measurements, because there are millions of applicable recording
The world's first home screening method for sleep disorders was developed in Finland.
A Master's thesis written by Väinö Virtanen at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in 2007 has yielded groundbreaking new tools for sleep research. A technology for monitoring the quality of sleep developed by Virtanen has since evolved into novel applications for at-home sleep disorder screening and sleep diagnostics. The inventions were recently patented in Finland and international patents are pending.
Sleep diagnostics service released on the Internet
MSc (Tech) Väinö Virtanen's method for analysing snoring sounds utilizes a PC with a microphone connection and a wireless microphone. The objective was to create an application that could be used at home to monitor snoring. Utilizing the technology, researchers from Tampere University of Technology and the University of Helsinki have studied sleep disorders and further refined related screening technologies. The collaboration has already spawned the smart alarm clock HappyWakeUp that was launched last year. It is the first health-promoting mobile phone application in the world.
In spring, the research team received funding from the Finnish Funding Agency of Technology and Innovation Tekes to create a sleep diagnostics service concept. Based on the technology developed by Virtanen and his colleagues, the team generated a service that enables at-home screening of sleep disorders. The service was recently released on the Internet.
"People can record their sleep all through the night with a mobile phone or an MP3 player. Analysis of the recording reveals the presence of abnormal sleep structures," says Virtanen.
Sleep specialist Dr. Tapani Salmi MD PhD at Helsinki University Hospital emphasizes that this is a significant medical breakthrough that will shed new light on sleep structures and events during sleep.
From a thesis to a patented invention
The Master's thesis Analysis of Sleep Related Disorders by Using Recorded Sound Signals by Väinö Virtanen was awarded the grade "very good" at Tampere University of Technology in October 2007. The examiners of the thesis were Professors Jarmo Harju from the Department of Communications Engineering and Hannu Eskola from the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
- The smart alarm clock HappyWakeUp was launched in August 2008. It is the first health-promoting mobile phone application in the world and runs on Nokia S60 smartphones.
- In December 2008, Virtanen entered the HappyWakeUp application into the Forum Nokia EMEA Application of the Year 2008 (EMEA) contest in Barcelona and achieved second place.
- In March 2009, HappyWakeUp made it to the top 30 in the Nokia "Calling All Innovators " contest. A total of 1,300 participants took part in the contest.
In March 2009, Smart Valley Software received a positive funding decision from Tekes for the HomeSleep service concept.
- Last spring, the light version of the smart alarm clock called HappyNap was the most downloaded, free-of-charge mobile medical application in the world. The HappyWakeUp alarm clock was also released for iPhone.
In the summer of 2009, the technology was presented in international medical congresses.
- In October 2009, the HappyWakeUp technology and application received a patent in Finland.
- In November 2009, the world's first home screening method for sleep disorders was released on the Internet.
What do the sounds of the night reveal?
The new HomeSleep application is based on the same innovation as the smart alarm clock.
"The microphones of new consumer electronics devices are sensitive, process audio signals efficiently and have a large storage capacity. The microphone is placed in the bed to record the sounds produced by the sleeper's movements, such as rustle. Movements during sleep are the key in evaluating sleep quality and the prevalence of restlessness," says Salmi.
Sleep disorders are so common that they are bordering on national epidemic, but they are difficult and expensive to diagnose. Some recordings are conducted at sleep laboratories and some at home with medical research equipment. Salmi says that compared to the existing methods the new method is both affordable and easy to use.
"The recording is performed at home using a minimally invasive device, which results in natural and undisturbed sleep. From a medical standpoint it is also very important that the recording is easily repeated."
The storage capacity of applicable devices is sufficient for recording raw data for over 10 nights. The recorded data is transferred to a home PC for analysis and graphical output. The analysis software is available on the Internet at the website www.sleeprecording.com. A basic analysis is free of charge.
The results of the analysis show if the recording was successful and if the findings indicate the presence of any sleep abnormalities. A further analysis is carried out if the user wants to see a numerical illustration of the number of sleep disturbances that occur per night. An analysis of seven nights is some hundred times cheaper than any other method of sleep measurement. The developers of HomeSleep are hoping to attract sponsors and advertisers to make the analysis available to consumers free of charge. However, Salmi emphasises that at-home sleep screening is not intended to be used as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional.
"You can take the results to the doctor's or they can be used to supplement other sleep quality measurements. If there is reason to suspect sleep-related illnesses or symptoms, it is always best to consult a doctor."