As more Americans get screened, diagnosed, and treated for OSA, more alternatives to CPAP therapy are coming on the market. This is a huge benefit since many people find the CPAP difficult to use. A less-effective treatment with better compliance can give more relief than a CPAP that sits unused on the bedside table.
For instance, truck drivers often have a problem complying with CPAP therapy. Truckers spend long hours on the road, often sleeping in their cabs at truck stops. They may not have electricity to run a CPAP all night, and they may not have the means to clean the devices well, putting them at risk for sinus infections and other issues. This is a big problem since drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, and 28% of long-distance truckers suffer from sleep apnea.
Researchers have developed a device that can be inserted through the nose to prevent soft palate collapse during sleep. Soft palate collapse is one common cause of OSA. These stents can be inserted easily after training and are easy to clean. However, they will not improve OSA due to poor tongue positioning. Truck drivers who’ve tried the devices are pleased with the results and even recommending them to family members who cannot tolerate CPAP devices.
Another new device recently approved by the FDA is designed to improve oral-motor function by stimulating the tongue muscle. The device, designed to be used therapeutically each day, was found to reduce snoring and reduced AHI index – the average number of times a person saw a severe oxygen drop during an hour of sleep. The device reduces the severity of OSA but doesn't cure it, and doctors recommend combining it with lifestyle changes.
It's exciting to be living in a time when there are new ways to treat OSA so that people can get good, healthy sleep. If you’re concerned that you or a family member may have sleep apnea, it’s time to get screened and treated. Ask your dentist or primary care physician about sleep breathing issues, and get those airways opened so that your brain and body can do the work of sleep.