22 October 2016
Professor Zhang Qian demonstrates how the sleep monitor watch works. Photo: HKEJ
Professor Zhang Qian demonstrates how the sleep monitor watch works. Photo: HKEJ

Here’s a new device to stop snoring

Most electronic products are just for fun, but this one is about life and death.

Snoring is a common problem. Not only is it a sign of poor quality of sleep, it may also be related to sleep apnea—a potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts as one sleeps.

Studies show that people with sleep apnea have five times the risk of dying from a heart problem. They are also subject to a higher risk of stroke and severe declines in oxygen levels.

Even if snoring does not signify a serious condition that poses immediate danger to one’s life, lack of proper sleep usually leads to all kinds of health issues.

A local university is now working on a gadget composed of a sleep monitor and a smart pillow that could drastically cut the frequency and length of snoring, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. 

The project is led by Zhang Qian, professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Qian and her team have been working with the Shenzhen People’s Hospital to develop the digital healthcare device.

The monitoring system is built into a watch-like device, which records data including a person’s oxygen level, sleep condition (deep or shallow) and the number of times the body rolls over.

It then communicates with an electronic pillow to adjust its shape to help correct the subject’s sleeping position, open up the respiratory duct and ensure proper breathing.

About 300 people have participated in tests using the sleep aide system between 2012 and 2013.

The results show a notable shortening in the average period of breathing disorder from about 25 seconds to less than 7 seconds.

The system also comes with an alarm, which goes off only at the end of a deep sleep session, a key to improving the quality of sleep.

Qian is now applying for certification from mainland authorities.

The product is expected to be launched next year, and the price of a unit could range from 1,000 to 2,000 yuan (US$154 to US$307), depending on the final design details and materials used.

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EJ Insight writer

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