In a first, Samsung smartwatches get govt. approval for this new health tracking feature
Technology has been opening many doors in different ways, and the latest is yet another breakthrough for Samsung following approval to bundle sleep apnea detection in their most recent Galaxy Watch units. This announcement makes Samsung the first to support sleep apnea detection in a smartwatch and hopefully it’ll spur other OEMs to bring similar functionality to their watches.
What’s sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing during sleep. When it happens, it interferes with blood oxygen supply and subsequently lowers the quality of sleep. In extreme cases, it may cause heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or other complications.
Samsung isn’t the first to bring sleep apnea detection to the home. There already exists other in-house tools that you can use to detect sleep apnea without visiting a doctor.
In 2019, the US FDA approved the first such tool — DROWZLE Pro — for sleep Apnea pre-screening on smartphones. The app is available on Android and iOS, and it collects data on things like daytime sleepiness, sleep breathing patterns, and chronic disease risk factors. Using this data, which is sent to your healthcare provider via the app, providers can easily measure and monitor any potential sleep disorder health risks over time. But for some reason, this app is not available on smartwatches, not even the popular Apple Watch.
The FDA categorizes the Apple Watch as a medical device. But it hasn’t been approved for sleep apnea detection. You also don’t get this feature on the Pixel Watch, which makes Samsung the only supported brand as far as smartwatches are concerned. In fact, other than the DROWZLE app and now Samsung, only a few other tools have been approved by the FDA for sleep apnea home-screening, among them the SleepCheck Rx app, Ectosense NightOwl, The SleepImage Ring and AcuPebble Ox100 wearables, the latter having received its approval earlier this year.
Sure, Apple, Garmin, and Fitbit smartwatches can disclose some signs of sleep apnea, but they cannot officially tell you if you have this condition. If anything, this is an industry-first feature, which is a huge statement from Samsung towards the competition.
Only the Galaxy Watch 5 & Watch 6 support sleep apnea detection
Before you get too excited, it’s worth noting that sleep apnea detection is only coming to the Galaxy Watch 6 and the Galaxy Watch 5. It’s unclear why Galaxy Watch 4 owners are excluded yet the watches are powered by the same Wear OS 4 software. The new feature, which will be available through the Samsung Health Monitor app, relies on the blood oxygen sensor (SpO2) to record data, a feature that is available on the Galaxy Watch 4 as well. So, unless there’s another hardware requirement, it’s possible that the Watch 4 will also get support for sleep apnea detection at some point through a software update.
It’s also worth noting that the approval has only been made in South Korea as from early 2024, so it remains to be seen if Samsung will seek approval from the US FDA as well. Granted, it should be available in the US and other regions in future.
Featured image: Samsung
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