Sleep Apnea Breakthrough: “Peaceful Nights For Millions”

Richard foster, CC BY-SA 2.0

Rest (And Breathe) Easy

Inverse – For millions of people who suffer from sleep apnea, getting a good night’s sleep is an elusive dream.

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea have blockage of breathing while they sleep, leading to snoring, disruption of sleep, and the drowsiness or fatigue that often occur.

The ailment also can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure and a risk of heart attack or stroke.

Sleep apnea affects about 18 million adults in the US and an estimated 1 billion people worldwide. Many are treated successfully with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines that allow them to breathe by keeping their airways open.

But about one-third of patients who do not tolerate continuous positive airway pressure machines must look for other options, including surgery or oral appliances.

There is a wide range of surgical procedures that open the space for breathing in the throat by removing or repositioning structures such as the soft palate (back of the roof of the mouth) or tongue.

Although many patients do well with surgery, the results are far from perfect.

As a sleep surgeon and professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery, I have focused on evaluation and surgery for obstructive sleep apnea and snoring.

My research has examined why some patients do well and others do not with surgical procedures, and if someone who doesn’t fare well with surgery will also not tolerate other treatments.

A robber of breath, and of health

The dangers of apnea go beyond loss of sleep, although that is so important for those who have sleep apnea and seldom feel rested.

While continuous positive airway pressure machines help thousands of people, many thousands more are not helped by them. Surgery and oral appliances are options in some cases.

Oral appliances, mouthpieces that typically open the space for breathing by holding the lower jaw forward, can work well … Read more.