A Robot Pillow to Help Sleep Apnea Patients
Date: June 28, 2012 Richard Jones

The Kabe Group from Japan’s Waseda University has developed a robot pillow, which aims to help people who are suffering from sleep apnea (and the problems that accompany this condition). The robot pillow, which is called Jukusui-kun, will benefit those who have sleep apnea – a condition which is characterized by pauses in the breathing or air flow while a person sleeps; the breathing pauses result to more shallow sleep levels that can in turn cause health problems to develop.

Acting like a modified teddy bear, the body of Jukusui-kun acts as a pillow where the patient’s head will be positioned. Its arms, on the other hand, move to nudge the patient’s neck or head when a change in position is needed. The movement of the arms (providing the stimulus for the patient to change positions) is triggered by a pulse oxymeter that is worn on the patient’s finger to measure blood oxygen concentration; there is also a microphone attached to the teddy bear – which in turn picks up snoring sounds.

Watch the video below on how the robot pillow, Jukusui-kun, works to provide stimulus for a sleep apnea patient to change positions, when pauses in breathing are detected.

The data that these two devices (the oxymeter and the microphone) gather is evaluated by a PC, triggering a signal to be sent to an actuator, whose movement can be adjusted according to a patient’s individual condition. The movement of the actuator will encourage the patient to change position and roll over, or in cases of badly interrupted sleep – wakes up the patient completely.

The robot pillow Jukusui-kun provides a sleep apnea aid that is not as cumbersome compared to the device that is more widely used nowadays, the CPAP. Sleep apnea happens when pauses in breathing  occur once or more times while a person sleeps, with these pauses lasting anywhere from mere seconds to minutes at a time. The breathing pauses can be repeated five to 30 times in an hour – and results to poor sleep quality, and daytime drowsiness.

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