|Sleepy time in Warwick|
The University of Warwick says its researchers are 'getting to the heart of sleep disorders'. Sleep disorders are becoming more commonly diagnosed in the UK; over 400 cases were seen at the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital alone last year. The main problems is sleep apnoea which means 'stopping breathing during sleep'. This can occur up to 300 times in one night. The consequences include extreme daytime sleepiness, which can have major effects on personal and professional life. Sufferers are also more likely to have high blood pressure and to die from heart attacks. The diagnosis and assessment of the patient has until now required a complex technique known as polysomnography, for which the patient must spend the night in hospital. Heart activity alone, as measured by an ECG device, has not been regarded as an adequate means of monitoring because even healthy hearts do not have an entirely regular beat.
The Warwick team has, however, developed a new mathematical approach to the analysis of heart beat data which they say makes it possible to assess patients using an ECG. The new technique will be faster, usable by the patient at home, and more easily interpreted by non-specialist doctors.
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