We all need a good night’s sleep. During National Sleep Week, March 6–12, many Americans will take a closer look at their sleep habits. Some may learn a condition called sleep apnea is what’s keeping them from getting shut-eye.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 1 in 15, or 18 million, Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. Apnea actually refers to a breathing pause lasting at least 10 seconds. Obstructed sleep apnea is when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, or know someone who does, you understand how difficult and dangerous the condition can be. The combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease, mood and memory problems, as well as an overall feeling of being exhausted.
The first line of defense against sleep apnea has been a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. Individuals put a mask on at night that blows pressurized air through their airway at a constant pressure to keep the throat from collapsing. A CPAP machine works great, but only for about 50 percent of individuals with sleep apnea.
In 2014, the Federal Drug Administration approved Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) therapy based on medical trial results from North Memorial Health Care. Of the 126 patients enrolled in the trial, 70 percent showed a reduction of sleep apnea. Now, three years past the trial, 80 – 90 percent of patients are using Inspire therapy at least five times a week.
Inspire therapy consists of a breathing sensor and a stimulation lead, powered by a small battery. Implanted during a short, outpatient procedure, Inspire continuously monitors your breathing while you sleep. The system delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles and gently moves the tongue and other soft tissues out of the airway so you can breathe during sleep. Using the small handheld sleep remote, Inspire is simply turned on at night before bed and off in the morning when you wake up.
“So many of our sleep apnea patients were not getting relief from CPAP,” says Dr. Cornelius, medical director of North Memorial Health Sleep Medicine Clinic. “Now, to have an option to offer those patients is really exciting. Inspire therapy is essentially providing hope for patients who desperately need energy and alertness from a good night’s rest, as well as relief from the serious health risks associated with sleep apnea.”
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