When your Apple Watch wakes you up in the middle of the night

“If there’s one thing almost guaranteed to send your heart rate soaring, it’s having a smartwatch wake you up at 3 a.m. with an alert that you might be about to die,” Nate Lanxon writes for Bloomberg. “This happened to me three weeks ago. My Apple Watch sounded an alarm in the early hours — concerned and disoriented, I sat up thinking at first it was an emergency phone call. It wasn’t. It was an alert that my heart was racing at about 128 beats per minute even though I was motionless.”

“For me, a reasonably healthy 33-year-old, the reality was innocuous. I’d been having a violent nightmare after an evening of uncharacteristically heavy drinking. My brain was reacting to fear, my blood was full of alcohol, and my heart was having to overcompensate. After an hour, I calmed down and went back to bed,” Lanxon writes. “But it left me with a lingering concern… I’ve had a severe nervous disorder since my teens that’s triggered by hypochondria.”

Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular) in Stainless Steel Case with White Sport Band (40mm left, 44mm right)
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular) in Stainless Steel Case with White Sport Band (40mm left, 44mm right)

 
“I think the industry needs to ensure that the sympathetic communication of warnings remains a priority. For someone with a nervous disposition, being woken up by a device flashing a health warning is a sure-fire way to trigger panic,” Lanxon writes. “I would hope a future ecosystem of devices and sensors will be even smarter, and more sensitive to mental health too. In my 3 a.m. scenario, perhaps they would be able to triangulate that restless sleep, a high blood-alcohol level, and a one-off high heart rate, was likely more indicative of “user error” (i.e. too many beers) rather than imminent cardiac arrest due to undetected heart complications.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: There are so many permutations to think about. Hopefully as machine learning becomes smarter and more pervasive, our devices will perform everything, including medical warnings, more intelligently.

14 Comments

  1. “triangulate that restless sleep, a high blood-alcohol level, and a one-off high heart rate, was likely more indicative of “user error” (i.e. too many beers)”
    Seems to me that too many beers is the problem he should be adjusting for 🙂

  2. “having a violent nightmare after an evening of uncharacteristically heavy drinking”

    Sounds like a health emergency to me. How many people have violent nightmares? I mean nightmares okay, but violent? Being woken up seems like a good remedy.

  3. its an overall risk benefit issue. Any test or investigation can find serious illness or disease, which is helpful or find benign things which create anxiety, but are really nothing in the end.
    I think the HR monitoring is not perfect, but will be a benefit for a significant number of people.

      1. Yep. Me, too.
        Wear Watch overnight to track sleep.
        Get up in the morning for a running workout.
        Charge the Watch while I’m in the shower and getting ready.
        It’s usually at least in the 90+ percent range by then, if not 100%.
        Wear watch all day, hopefully finishing all my activity rings.
        If I’m reading before going to sleep and I think of it, charge the Watch for 20-30 minutes if it is below 70%.
        Put Watch back on to track sleep.
        All good.

  4. I think despite the fact he wore the watch to bed, where I suspect most people take it off to charge, the alert was the right thing to do. He was having an episode that probably needed to be resolved by waking up and calming down. he maybe blaming the watch for the extra effects, I think he was already experiencing the panic and it carried over when he was aroused by his watch.;

    Course the simple solution is, don’t get so stupidly drunk in the first place and then admit how stupid you are in an article.

    1. Yeah, reasonably healthy 33 year old’s have had their lives saved by the Watch alerting to an issue that would have gone undetected otherwise. Consider, folks on the Apple Heart Study in the same situation would have been directed to a health professional, and had to wear a heart monitoring device for a week to ensure that there were no underlying issues.

      No, the Watch isn’t perfect, BUT, there’s been so many stories of people being alerted to more serious health problems because of it, to pish posh it is just… oh, an excuse to write an article! 🙂

      1. It sounds like the author thinks “this is the right direction to err, if err you must.” But, the author was suggesting that Apple might be able to improve the analysis done to reduce errors like this. Both are very reasonable positions to hold.

  5. I was emailed a bad yearly review from my boss this summer. And even though I was expecting it, my Apple Watch dinged me with an elevated heart rate of 140 beats per minute. I new exactly why it dinged me. I was mad as hell. So I got up and went for a walk.

    1. You know what, I have a friend that uses the heart rate monitor to help be aware of their moods. If they check it and it’s 120 or more, it’s time to evaluate if it’s even worth letting situation control them at that level.

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