According to researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), they have developed an innovative approach to testing sleep quality using their new breath sound analysis (BSA). This is less expensive and invasive than current polysomnography (PSG) technology, which has been the gold standard as a sleep apnea test. The study has been published on PLOS Online.

“One of the main goals of sleep medicine today is to improve early diagnosis and treatment of the ‘flood’ ” of subjects presenting with sleep disorders,” says Prof. Yaniv Zigel Ph.D., head of the Biomedical Signal Processing Research Lab in BGU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Prof. Zigel added, “We’ve developed a non-contact ‘breathing sound analysis’ algorithm that provides a reliable estimation of whole-night sleep evaluation for detection of sleep quality, snoring severity and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). It has the potential to reduce the cost and management of sleep disorders compared to PSG, the current standard of treatment, and could be used at home.”

Generally, the most accurate sleep apnea test has been the polysomnograph (PSG). PSG requires a night’s sleep at a sleep center, and subjects are connected to several kinds of equipment that monitor the heart rate, eye, leg and arm movement, breathing patterns, sleep patterns, and brain patterns. The data is processed and must be interpreted by a sleep specialist in order to reveal insights about sleep/wake states and many aspects of physiology. This procedure is time-consuming and costly.

After comparing the two studies, there were only minor average differences in the measurements between PSG and BSA. The researchers measured 150,000 individual time segments (epochs). From these segments, the BSA proved to be 83.3% accurate with 92.2% sensitivity measuring sleep as sleep. These percentages are high. “The results showed that sleep/wake activity and sleep quality parameters can be reliably estimated solely using breathing sound analysis,” says Prof. Ariel Tarasiuk of BGU’s Department of Physiology and head of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Unit, at Soroka University MedicalCenter.”

For obstructive sleep apnea specialists, there has been a shortage of new and accurate tests. This study highlights the potential–and much needed accuracy–of this innovative approach to measure sleep in research and clinical circumstances. Although there are already many advances with at-home evaluations, this technology clearly points to a more improved sleep apnea test for home studies.