Data Analysis to Help People Rest Easy

For people who suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes patients’ breathing to stop and start, an effective solution already exists—but it’s not used as often as it should be.

The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which supplies air through a mask attached to a machine to keep the airway from becoming obstructed. Because patients often find CPAP therapy uncomfortable, rates of consistent usage are lower than 50 per cent, despite the machine being an effective tool in treating the potentially serious medical condition.

A Nova Scotia company called NovaResp Technologies is creating an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm called Continuous Management of Airway Pressure, or CMAPTM. It can be used with any CPAP machine to make the technology more effective and comfortable.

The new technology will use existing sensors on the machine to predict apnea events, helping to prevent apnea and regulate breathing, thereby reducing the need for high levels of air pressure in the CPAP machine. With the new system in place, an advanced model of CPAP machines can be made smaller and more efficient, using less power.

Dr. Enayat Rajabi, Associate Professor of Data Analytics at CBU, and his team are working on writing a machine learning model to detect and classify apnea events from various inputs.

“Taking measurements from around the neck area is well established as one of the best ways of detecting apnea events,” says Dr. Rajabi.

He and his students are analyzing the data picked up from specific sensors to provide a proof of concept that the data can be used to classify different types of apnea events. The data, such as readings gathered from the chin and sub-mentalis muscle, comes from clinical trials obtained by NovaResp.

The project requires pre-processing of large datasets for use in model training, validation and testing. Research assistant and CBU student, Geethu Susan Ebby, is excited to be involved in this project. She explains the team is in the visualization phase of interpreting the data. “We are trying to see if the data show that movements in the muscles indicate there is going to be an event,” says Geethu.

NovaResp CEO, Dr. Hamed Hanafi, is confident the organization is gaining important insights in product development thanks to the expertise at CBU. “Dr. Rajabi and his team are helping us toward our goal of customized sleep apnea treatments for each individual client,” says Dr. Hanafi. “We greatly appreciate the benefits that collaborative research with him and his team can offer us as we continue to grow.”

Dr. Rajabi acknowledges funding support from Invest Nova Scotia for this research initiative.