Researchers are working on a smartphone-based technology which can help track sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, much easier than visiting a doctor.
Using earbuds, equipped with an in-line microphone and an Apple iPhone, researchers from Florida State University and New Jersey-based Stevens Institute of Technology analysed participants' breathing habits during a six-month study.
When compared to a chest-worn respiration monitor, the smartphone-based device monitored participants' breathing to within half a breath per minute, the MIT Technology Review, a magazine published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported.
The team tested the sensitivity of the microphone on the earbuds for recording breathing rate and also modified the earbuds to act as additional microphones.
While the breathing rate was measured most accurately when the earphone was worn or kept next to a participant's pillow and multiple microphones were used, the study also showed it worked well with just the unmodified earphones on a bedside table.
According to Yingying Chen, an associate professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, the team plans to release a smartphone app to study sleep disorders next year.
"Using the app would be an accurate and significantly cheaper method to track quality of sleep and could help identify sleep apnea and other potential health problems," the study's authors noted.
A paper on the technology is scheduled to be presented at the IEEE Infocom conference in April, 2015.