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Sleeping, eating, and breathing: Anticipating Apple's health news

Move over, meditation. Apple is applying its design sensibilities to some of the biggest health problems in America, including diabetes and asthma.

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New health tracking features have been part of the Apple event for the last few years. This year should be no different, as the Apple Watch Series 5 is Apple's window into the world of an individual's health. This year's announcements could include a new tool for people with diabetes, improvements in sleep tracking, and potentially a hint about Apple's plans for helping people with asthma.

Better sleeping with Beddit

Apple updated its Beddit app in January, and the Beddit Beta Program launched in June. 9to5Mac reported last week that Apple will allow users to track sleep quality in more detail but without any extra devices.

If you want to wear your Apple Watch to bed, you may be able to understand your sleep cycle better. Most doctors recommend no screens an hour before bedtime but most people sleep with their phones anyway. Having your phone even closer than your nightstand might make it even harder to get a good night's sleep, but new tracking apps from Apple will at least tell you exactly how poorly you're doing. If Beddit can help you develop better sleep habits, maybe you won't need to wear your watch to bed forever.

Tracking asthma attacks

At the end of last year, Apple acquired Tueo Health, a company focused on asthma. The company was building a mobile app that worked with breathing sensors to manage asthma symptoms in children. The idea was that it would send an alert to a parent if a child's's breathing changed during the night. 

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This is a relatively recent acquisition for Apple, so it's unlikely that Tueo's work has been fully integrated into the mothership just yet. However, asthma is a significant health problem: About 6.2 million kids have asthma in the United States. Nighttime symptoms interrupt sleep, which can lead to other mental and physical health problems. And, there's nothing more terrifying than not being able to breathe.

Easier blood sugar monitoring

Diabetes is an even bigger problem for Americans: 100 million of us have diabetes or pre-diabetes. People with diabetes who are also Apple fans may have tried the One Drop system. (This wireless glucose monitor showed up in a few Apple stores earlier this year.) It uses Bluetooth to connect to iOS and Android phones. One Drop users prick a finger to measure blood sugar levels. The One Drop sends data straight to the Apple Watch without needing to connect to a phone first. 

Several medical device companies have glucose monitoring apps that work on the Watch: Dexcom, Medtronic and Senseonics. Abbott's FreeStyle Libre is the current competitor to beat in terms of connectivity and ease of use. This continuous glucose monitor comes with with an insertable sensor and a small patch that is scanned using a reader or a smartphone app. The device measures glucose levels every minute. The device is inserted with an injection, and the sensor can be used for up to 14 days.  

It's hard to imagine that Apple would build its own blood glucose monitor so maybe the big news will be about a new partnership or a new needle-free product from One Drop.

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...