UChicago Expert Develops ‘Personal Trainer for Your Sleep’

A new mobile health tool for patients with obstructive sleep apnea uses a novel CPAP adherence metric and tracks lifestyle features to support behavior changes and optimize care.

Director of the University of Chicago Sleep Center, Esra Tasali is an expert in sleep medicine and researcher who first-hand has seen the need to change the one-size-fits-all approach to sleep apnea treatment.

The biggest challenge is adherence: wearing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device mask for at least 50% of the time a patient is sleeping, or roughly four hours. But this number is backed by little evidence, explained Tasali.

Additionally, this measure does not take into account if the patient was sleeping while wearing the mask. This is misleading because patients who wear a mask for at least four hours are often labeled as compliant, when, in actuality, they may not have been asleep for that time.

As Tasali noted, there is no individual “dose” as there is with other treatments. To remedy this, and improve patient care, she has developed a metric that for the first time provides a personalized “prescription.” Guidance for both the patient and the provider, the metric helps determine who is being treated effectively and who needs more support.

The invention, a novel algorithm that produces “a clinically meaningful metric” for determining compliance, has been patented by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“It was user-driven development,” said Tasali, who noted that the historic approach did not reflect the reality of many patients. “We are providing people with a 100 percent personalized goal.” To reach these goals, users are coached through an app that provides homework based on habits and sleep hygiene principles. It also includes surveys to track various behaviors.

Tasali described the app as “a personal trainer for your sleep” – with unique goals and clear steps to achieve them. It is currently being used in a large clinical study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Over the past 15 years, Tasali has been the principal investigator on several interdisciplinary research projects funded by the NIH, including seminal research that explored the impacts that sleep and sleep apnea have on metabolic outcomes.

Her work has two lines, she explained: “One is a mechanistic lab studies doing detail robust measurements including blood sampling and sleep manipulation to understand the impact of sleep duration and quality.” The other involves real-world studies with robust, objective measures to examine the impact of sleep interventions.

Tasali’s most recent work in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that sleep extension could be a viable intervention for the prevention or reversal of obesity. “Our study showed if you increase the sleep duration – give them tools to increase their sleep duration, patients eat less,” she explained. “This is huge for weight loss and is a non-side effect, behavioral intervention that has been overlooked for years.”

Chair of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board at the NIH, Tasali is the recipient of awards for her pioneering work and continues to serve on NIH review panels.

INTERESTED IN THIS TECHNOLOGY? Contact Michael Hinton, Senior Manager, Technology Marketing, who can provide more detail about this technology, discuss the licensing process, and connect you with the inventor.

// Polsky Patented is a column highlighting research and inventions from University of Chicago faculty. For more information about available technologies, click here.

This site uses cookies and other tracking technologies to assist with navigation and your ability to provide feedback, analyze your use of products and services, assist with our promotional and marketing efforts.