Using infrared cam to diagnose sleep problems
January 13, 2011 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Using infrared cam to diagnose sleep problems

I have trouble sleeping. A lot of trouble. I've read books on sleep, tried different suggestions, but the problem remains. When I am awake at 4am and can't fall back to sleep for an hour, I'm aware of that. What I'm not aware of is what may be going on while I'm sleeping. To this end, I'd like to make a video recording of myself while asleep to see if there's anything I'm missing. I don't want to check in to a sleep lab, that's very expensive.

I've considered using a near-infrared webcam, connecting it to my laptop via USB, and just leaving the think pointed at my bed overnight. Questions:

- Is this a viable approach?
- How many GB will 10 hours of video take up (using a Macbook)?
- How much do I have to spend on a webcam that does this reliably? I believe I need near-infrared, a.k.a. "night vision" instead of far-infrared "thermal imaging".

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As a person with sleep apnea, I don't recommend a homebrew approach like this. There are things that could be happening that aren't visible at all, which is why they wire the heck out of you at a sleep study.

That said, if you really didn't want to do a full sleep study, I think you should start with an audio recording, which would be much easier and cheaper to accomplish quickly. You can figure out whether you're gasping for air pretty quickly -- e.g. within the first hour.

This assumes, of course, that you also don't have a person there to just tell you whether or not you're snoring or gasping for air.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:51 PM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

CPB is right, audio is probably an easier place to start. Just fire up a "record from the microphone" app before bed. It probably won't record more than a few dozen MB overnight.

Going forward from there depends a lot on how handy / geeky you are. I'm interested in this stuff too, but can't afford an actual sleep study. (I did one a few years ago and slept so poorly on the waterproof, crinkly hospital bed that they couldn't tell anything except that I didn't have any REM sleep. No wonder I was tired the next morning!)

I picked up one of those exercise heart rate monitors (chest band and wristwatch). It records high & low heart rates, which is interesting to know. The sleep study had a nasal cannula breathing monitor, which would be relatively easy to rig up if you know some electronics, or can bribe a hacker with beer.

I've thought it'd be interesting to sell a disposable EEG/EKG/breathing kit, sort of like a home pregnancy test kit, but for sleep apnea. The electronics are small and cheap enough that I think it's viable, but the FDA certification would probably be prohibitive.

I think IR video would be my last choice, since it'll be harder to set up, and really boring to review the tapes.

BTW, I ended up solving my sleep problems (I think, anyway) by sleeping face down. It takes a few days to get used to it, plus a lot of pillow gymnastics, but I'm rarely tired in the morning any more.
posted by spacewrench at 2:02 PM on January 13, 2011

You don't need a special webcam, you can just remove the IR-blocking filter of a cheap, normal one. For lighting you can buy a bunch of cheap IR LEDs off ebay, or get a visible-blocking filter and put it in front of a normal LED flashlight.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2011

I use this Sharx network camera do do exactly what you describe. Excellent performance in the dark. Motion sensing recording either to an SD card or to an ftp site. About 2-4MB/minute. The motion sense recording is key, saves storage but also saves a lot of time scanning the video. A typical night's recording for me is 35MB (of just motion). Looks like Amazon is out of stock but you can find it elsewhere. Cost is about $300.
posted by cosmac at 3:23 PM on January 13, 2011

Another very cheap alternative - if you have an iPhone - is to try Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. Basically, it uses the accelerometer in the phone to record when you shift around on the mattress. Obviously not the most scientific data, but the charts they produce are quicker to analyse than fast-forwarding through 8 hours of audio or video.
posted by web-goddess at 3:41 PM on January 13, 2011

I did this with a cheap video camera that had the night shot feature. You might be able to find one of these on craigslist. This was ten years ago but it confirmed my suspicion that I was waking frequently gasping for air but not fully conscious. I then got the proper study and am ten years on a CPAP and very thankful. Sleep problems are nothing to skimp on and I would urge you to try to get an appointment with a sleep clinic. I can't put a price on ten years of sleeping well and waking up with energy and no headache.
posted by leetheflea at 5:33 PM on January 13, 2011

My Zeo has been pretty interesting. Though occasionally the headband fails to register, that can be frustrating. But it will give you wake time, and monitor different sleep stages.

And they are starting to do some pretty cool stuff to open it up to hacking.
posted by BleachBypass at 5:42 PM on January 13, 2011

30 day return policy, too. So little risk as long as you're not the type to slack off getting it back in the mail.
posted by BleachBypass at 5:43 PM on January 13, 2011

You can do this very simply and easily. A good free app is YAWCAM. I would just do the IR filter removal trick Rhomboid mentions above and be done with it.

You can also find cheap ($10) IR webcams on eBay. My vote is for you to try the cheap DIY way before getting invested in anything else.
posted by fake at 8:59 PM on January 13, 2011

« Older Cassettes dubbed from reel-to-reel, backwards....   |   I was erroneously overpaid by a previous employer... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.