Latest partnership in Japan to use wearables in studying sleep disorders

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Two Japanese companies, health tech firm Four H and Aculys Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company focused on treating mental health disorders, are collaborating to further understand and help people with sleeping disorders.

Their goal is to have an objective understanding of sleeping disorders, particularly narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). They will use AI and other methods in analysing objective data on sleep, activities, and heart rate collected from wearable devices, as well as subjective assessments of patients’ sleep.

The partners also aim to identify digital biomarkers or predictive signs of the onset of daytime sleepiness. Their study will also analyse daytime sleeping patterns and sleep characteristics and compare patients’ daytime activity data with those without symptoms of any sleep disorders. 

In the long run, they intend to build a comprehensive sleep ecosystem for patients, including sleep-related digital biomarkers for predicting health risks, personalised data to improve patient productivity and quality of life, and at-home sleep disorder management programmes.

WHY IT MATTERS

In a press statement, the companies noted how difficult it is to objectively identify sleep disorders and how they largely rely on memory and self-reports by patients themselves, which stands as a challenge in providing diagnoses and appropriate treatment. 

According to research, Japanese people sleep less than any other people around the world due to their lack of understanding of the importance of sleep. This is why the Japanese government has launched the Health Japan 21 programme which seeks to raise awareness of sleep, among other key themes. 

Delaying medical intervention and allowing complications of sleep disorders to arise could lead to an increase in overall costs to society, including medical care expenditure, Aculys Pharma and Four H mentioned.

“In order to improve the patient’s quality of life, prognosis, productivity, and other factors, it is necessary to detect sleep disorders accurately and provide appropriate medical care at an early stage,” they said.

MARKET SNAPSHOT

This is not the first endeavour in Japan which seeks to develop digital therapeutics for treating sleep disorders. Last year, Japanese IT conglomerate SoftBank Corp. tied up with Pear Therapeutics for the development of a sleep-wake disorder DTx for the Japanese people. The latter has an FDA-approved device for treating chronic insomnia called Somryst, which was launched in late 2020. 

The following year, the US FDA granted a De Novo authorisation for the first treatment device for OSA called eXciteOSA. It is a prescription tongue muscle stimulation device for adults to reduce mild sleep apnea and snoring.

Meanwhile, new devices that can track and detect sleep disorders have come into the Asia-Pacific market. South Korean startup HoneyNaps have launched SOMNUM, its AI-based software that provides automatic and accurate polysomnography readings for the diagnosis of sleep disorders. 

Last year, BUZUD, a medical device brand in Singapore, launched a line of smartwatches with sleep apnea detection, among other health monitoring features. 

Also, ASX-listed ResApp has recently received a US FDA 510(k) clearance for its mobile sleep apnea screening app, SleepCheckRx. The prescription-only app analyses breathing and snoring sounds to screen for risks of sleep disorders.

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