Sleep apps: what role do they play in clinical medicine?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Today's smartphones boast more computing power than the Apollo Guidance Computer. Given the ubiquity and popularity of smartphones, are we already carrying around miniaturized sleep labs in our pockets?

Recent findings

There is still a lack of validation studies for consumer sleep technologies in general and apps for monitoring sleep in particular. To overcome this gap, multidisciplinary teams are needed that focus on feasibility work at the intersection of software engineering, data science and clinical sleep medicine.

Summary

To date, no smartphone app for monitoring sleep through movement sensors has been successfully validated against polysomnography, despite the role and validity of actigraphy in sleep medicine having been well established. Missing separation of concerns, not methodology, poses the key limiting factor: The two essential steps in the monitoring process, data collection and scoring, are chained together inside a black box due to the closed nature of consumer devices. This leaves researchers with little room for influence nor can they access raw data. Multidisciplinary teams that wield complete power over the sleep monitoring process are sorely needed.

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