Thanks to newfound FDA approval, the Samsung Galaxy Watch’s sleep apnea detection feature will arrive in the U.S. later this year. Samsung is the first company to gain FDA approval for smartwatch-based sleep apnea detection, and it received similar approval from the South Korean government in October 2023.
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that prevents a person from breathing while asleep. It reduces sleep quality and greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly heart attack and stroke. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 25% of men and 10% of women in the U.S. suffer from sleep apnea—it’s a very common condition, but because it occurs during sleep, it often goes undiagnosed.
Samsung’s detection methodology is still unknown. But the Galaxy Watch is well-equipped to detect some common signs of sleep apnea, like sudden fluctuations in blood oxygen saturation or heart rate during sleep. In any case, users who wear their Galaxy Watch to bed more than twice in a 10-day span will be monitored for sleep apnea. Data from these tests can be accessed through the Samsung Health Monitor app, and users will be notified if they may be suffering from sleep apnea.
This is a great addition to the Galaxy Watch’s healthcare capabilities. Some people only receive a sleep apnea diagnosis after having a heart attack. Sleep apnea detection on the Galaxy Watch cannot replace traditional diagnostic tools, but it’s a proactive approach to healthcare that may save lives. Still, I should note that this feature is only FDA approved for individuals age 22 and older, and it is not intended for those who have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
We hope that rival smartwatch brands copy this functionality. That said, Samsung’s biggest rival is in a bit of a pickle. A legal ruling has forced Apple to disable the SpO2 sensor in some Apple Watch models. This may reduce the Apple Watch’s ability to detect interrupted breathing and other signs of sleep apnea.
Galaxy Watch users in the U.S. will receive sleep apnea detection later this year. Unfortunately, a South Korean press release states that this feature will only work on Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 6-series devices. Samsung is specifically aiming for a Q3 release, so sleep apnea detection will probably make its debut during the Galaxy Unpacked event in August.