Oura is a smart-ring brand whose products are designed to give you details on your health stats for sleep and exercise. According to Oura, their rings use research-grade sensors to track how well you sleep, how much deep sleep and REM sleep you get, your blood oxygen levels, and your sleep patterns. However, Oura’s recent patent filing1 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals that the company is working on a non-invasive patch that could potentially detect the likelihood of someone having obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing repeatedly starts and stops2 while they sleep, usually causing them to wake up multiple times throughout the night. This sleep disorder often goes undiagnosed, though, with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reporting that roughly 23.5 million Americans3 who have sleep apnea are undiagnosed.
Why Is Oura Ring’s Patent Important?
Oura’s new patch could give people a more accessible way to understand if they may have obstructive sleep apnea. While obtaining a formal sleep study may still be necessary to determine the right treatment plan, this presents a potential first step in that direction.
How Would The Patch Work?
According to Oura’s patent, they have illustrations in which the patch is placed directly against the skin in various places, including the forehead, behind the ear, and on the throat. Similar to how their rings are built with sensors, the patch would have sensors that can detect sleep positions, reduced breathing patterns, cessations in breathing, blood oxygen levels, snoring, sleep-wake cycles, respiratory rate, and respiratory effort.1
This data can then to used to assess the sleeper’s likelihood of OSA.
Sleep Apnea Risks
As mentioned, over 23 million Americans go undiagnosed for sleep apnea.3
The issue with this is that if someone doesn’t know they have sleep apnea, they can’t receive treatment for it. Untreated OSA can not only lead to daytime fatigue, but it can also increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, complications with medicine and surgery, and liver problems. Additionally, a common symptom of OSA is loud snoring, which can make it more difficult for the person’s partner to sleep well.2
There are varying reasons why someone may go undiagnosed for OSA. If you sleep alone, for example, you may snore loudly due to OSA but have no idea that you do, whereas those with a partner may be aware of this symptom because the other person mentions it.
However, there are also financial factors that could impact why someone is undiagnosed, even if they suspect they may have this disorder. People without health insurance may not have access to a doctor who can recommend them for a sleep study. Additionally, sleep studies, especially in-lab ones, can be expensive, costing anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. While many insurance companies can help cover the cost of a sleep study with a doctor’s prescription, you may still need to pay out-of-pocket costs.
Treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Once someone has gone through the steps of receiving a formal sleep apnea diagnosis, they’ll then receive a customized treatment plan based on the severity of their apnea.
Milder cases of OSA can often be alleviated through lifestyle changes4 like losing weight, cutting out smoking, and sleeping on your side or stomach instead of your back. The most common therapy for moderate to severe OSA is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, in which the sleeper wears a mask that provides a constant stream of air pressure to help keep the airways from collapsing as this can cause apneas and snoring.4
As mentioned, OSA’s ramifications can extend far beyond just a bad night of sleep, which is why diagnosing — and subsequently treating — this sleep disorder is so vital for people’s health and well-being.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
- 1. “United States Patent Application Publication”. United States Patent and Trademark Office. –
- 2. “Sleep apnea: Symptoms & causes”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified April 6, 2024. –
- 3. “Six facts about sleep apnea”. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. –
- 4. “Sleep apnea: Diagnosis & treatment”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified April 6, 2024. –