Experts say that they designed a device very similar to a mouth guard that is as effective as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment in alleviating symptoms of sleep apnea.
And doctors recommend their patients diagnosed with the condition to not let it untreated because on the long run sleep apnea can boost risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and premature death.
Sleep apnea patients find it difficult to breathe during their sleep because their airways narrow at night. Because airways reduce their size, air cannot circulate easily to the patient’s organs leading to a low oxygenation of the body. Some of the most common symptoms are loud snoring, pauses in breathing and shallow breathing while asleep, and shortness of breath.
Because the brain and blood are not properly oxygenated, the person may wake up tired after a full-night sleep, may have headaches in the morning, dizziness, and drowsiness throughout the day. But if the body is stressed long enough by low oxygen levels, the condition could lead to severe complications.
So far, the most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a breathing machine called CPAP. This machine ups the air pressure and forces patient’s airways to remain open during his or her sleep. But not all patients are comfortable with the treatment because they need to wear a mask tied to a pump through a tube during sleep.
Patients often complain that they are disturbed by the background noise of the machine and cannot sleep right because of the mask and tube. So, most of them ditch the CPAP machine and seek other alternatives.
According to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers were able to design a device that stays in the patient’s mouth and keeps their airways open. The device forces the lower jaw into a position that allows the airway to stay open. The device does not require a pump or a tube and does not make any sounds.
Researchers said that their device was proven effective in nearly 50 patients. These patients were asked to wear the device while they sleep, while 50 other patients were given a mouth guard that did nothing to reposition the lower jaw.
After four months, patients who used the device displayed fewer symptoms of sleep apnea, compared to those using the placebo mouth guard. On the other hand, both groups reported that they felt less tired during daytime.
Surprisingly enough, patients who used the placebo said that the device was effective enough to make them want to use it. So, the study clearly shows that oral devices are a good alternative to CPAP.
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