Sponsored Content by the American Technion Society
It’s been an exhausting day. You flick out the lights, sink into the covers, and wait for luxurious sleep to wash over you. Instead, the minutes tick by as you toss and turn, plagued with thoughts of unfinished to-do lists, unanswered emails, and missed phone calls.
Sound familiar? Nearly one-in-three adults in the U.S. suffer from sleep deprivation, brought on for any number of reasons including stress, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and even because of newborns. Those numbers are rising as the lines between work and home become blurred.
Getting six or fewer hours of sleep per day can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, and depression. “There is so much about sleep we don’t understand,” said Dr. Asya Rolls, associate professor at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. “But we do know that when sleep is disrupted, almost everything goes wrong.”
The Technion has a long history in sleep research. President Peretz Lavie established Israel’s first sleep lab at the Technion in 1975, and authored books on sleep disorders. Currently, researchers at the Technion and at the Jacobs Technion–Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech are drawing on science, technology, and medicine to find better solutions than counting sheep.
A Patch to Diagnose Sleep Apnea
Dr. Amir Reuveny, a fellow at the Jacobs Institute’s Runway Startup Postdoc Program, employs wireless and advanced sensing technology to diagnose chronic sleep disorders, starting with sleep apnea.
Some 22 million Americans suffer from the disorder, in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. Yet a staggering 80% of cases go undiagnosed. Dr. Reuveny has co-founded Tatch to develop a wireless, easy-to-use body patch to diagnose and manage chronic sleep disorders while the patient sleeps. The patch, containing sensors and a communication component, measures key diagnostic parameters for sleep apnea, including breathing, heart rate, and body position. The findings are sent to the patient’s smartphone and to the cloud for the physician’s review.
In March, Dr. Reuveny started pilot programs of the patch in New York and New Jersey hospitals. If successful, Tatch will be a welcome alternative to existing home diagnostic tests that are often inaccurate, and sleep labs, which require patients to be hooked up to electrodes with constant monitoring.
“By making sleep diagnosis more accessible and affordable, Tatch allows more people to get the right treatment,” said Dr. Reuveny, whose father suffers from sleep apnea.
Nanit Monitors Baby, So You Can Sleep
Maybe those who know the most about sleep, or the lack thereof, are parents of newborns. Parents lose about 44 nights of sleep during the first year of their child’s life. That could be changing, thanks to the baby monitor and smartphone app Nanit Plus. “You can’t be the parent you want to be when you’re sleep deprived,” said Dr. Assaf Glazer, who developed Nanit Plus at the Runway Program.
Using advanced computer vision and machine learning, Nanit monitors everything from how often the baby wakes to how often parents visit the crib. Its Insights program provides morning-after debriefs on how well baby and parents did, along with coaching tips. And Nanit’s newest innovation, Breathing Wear, is a swaddling blanket or band designed to monitor your baby’s breathing. Real-time alerts notify the parent if the baby does not breathe for more than 20 seconds.
In a six-month study of 6,000 babies monitored by Nanit Plus, the company found that the babies slept 10% longer and went to bed an hour and 20 minutes earlier than the national average.
A Wake-Up Call: The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Scientists know that sleep, memory, and health are connected. But exactly how is the mystery Prof. Rolls is unraveling with her pioneering research. Experiments with mice whose sleep was interrupted every 60 seconds showed they had difficulty recognizing familiar objects. “Memory consolidation requires not only a certain overall quantity of sleep but sleep that is uninterrupted,” she said, advising to turn off cell phones at night.
In another study with sleep deprived mice, Prof. Rolls found that the stem cells commonly used in bone marrow transplants to treat cancer had difficulty finding their way. “We expend so much time and energy finding the right donors for bone marrow transplants, but we don’t know why some are successful and others are not,” she said. Two hours of recovery sleep restored the cells’ effectiveness.
Sleep accounts for one-third of our lives and has a tremendous impact on the other two-thirds. “If we understand what happens during sleep that prevents things from going wrong,” said Prof. Rolls, “We’ll be able to utilize these natural resources to maintain our body’s homeostasis.”
The Technion–Israel Institute of Technology powers breakthroughs that are advancing Israel and changing lives around the world. For more information, visit ats.org.