Many smartwatches and fitness bands these days offer some form of sleep monitoring or another. The most they can do, however, is tell you how well or poorly you slept. There’s really not much help it can offer to those suffering from regular nightmares, especially those induced by PTSD. That may soon be changing, even if only a little bit, with the FDA’s approval to market the NightWare system for the Apple Watch precisely to help reduce adult sleep disturbance caused by these nightmares.
The idea behind NightWare builds upon the foundations of most sleep monitoring features. It uses biometrics to measure the wearer’s sleep quality and, after sending the data to the company’s servers and running it through an algorithm, NightWare creates a unique and personalized profile for the patient. This profile is then used as the baseline for comparing the wearer’s future sleep quality.
What sets NightWare apart from sleep monitors is how it reacts to what it deems to be a nightmare. If body movement and heart rate suggest that is the case, it will make the Apple Watch vibrate in an attempt to interrupt the nightmare without waking up the user.
There are, however, a lot of caveats to this Apple Watch-based device. It shouldn’t be used, for example, by someone prone to sleepwalking or violence during nightmares. It’s also not recommended to wear the device when reading or watching TV, activities that could throw off the app and presume the user is having a nightmare. There is also a risk that it could ironically induce daytime sleepiness, at which point the patient should inform his or her healthcare provider.
The FDA announcement also notes that NightWare isn’t a standalone and independent tool and should be used in conjunction with medication and therapy. In fact, NightWare isn’t even something you can simply download from the App Store and requires a prescription to get. The FDA approval, however, could open the doors to similar tools that would take smartwatches to the next level in the medical field.