`Last month I featured a few reports on a new and innovative treatment I was embarking upon to help deal with my sleep apnea. There are some new developments in this story–breaking news, if you will.
[Note: If you followed my previous reports on this subject, you can skip the background information and proceed to the last three paragraphs.]
Briefly, for those who are not familiar with this health issue that millions are affected by, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a disorder that interrupts breathing while an individual sleeps. Once asleep, the muscles relax, including those at the base of the tongue. In OSA victims, these muscles relax so much that they collapse and close off the air passage. The victim begins to suffocate and, usually, hopefully, the brain will kick in and wake the body up so it can begin breathing again. In severe cases, this pattern continues throughout the night, awaking the victim as many as 40 or more times an hour. People with OSA get very little quality sleep. This often results in their “crashing” during their daytime awake hours. Many fall asleep in the middle of common situations like reading or sitting at a desk working, watching television or, most scary, while driving.
The treatment for OSA can include surgery that rearranges things inhibiting the flow of air into the body. The surgery is usually very painful and there is no guarantee it will fix the problem. A more popular treatment is called C-PAP. This is system whereby the person wears an air-tight facial mask while a machine pumps a continuous flow of air into his or her nostrils, thereby keeping the airway open. For many people C-PAP is so intrusive they cannot sleep while using it. I am one of them.
For us, finally, there is a new surgically implanted system that has proven to be highly effective. It’s call Inspire and it’s modeled after the well-established pace-maker that helps many victims of heart disease. If you are interested, you can learn much more about this new procedure at inspiresleep.com.
Inspire involves the implanting of a small module just below the surface of the chest. Two leads run from this module, one to a lung that monitors breathing and another that attaches to the base of the tongue. When the system is activated during the patient’s sleep hours, it will provide a continuous flow of impulses, based on the breathing pattern. These impulses cause the tongue to lift up and out, thus preventing it from collapsing and shutting down the air flow.
This procedure is so new, less than 1500 people worldwide so far have met the qualifications and have had it surgically implanted. I am the 32nd person in South Florida who has undergone the procedure. Last night I turned it on and used it for the first time.
Immediate results are not expected. There is a period of time when the exact strength of the impulses needs to be determined through trial-and-error. It needs to be strong enough to move the tongue, but not so noticeable that it awakens the patient. I have to admit it is somewhat weird feeling my tongue moving up and out over my lower lip during the initial testing of my unit. In normal use, the system is turned on at bedtime by a hand-held remote control but it allows for a time period for the patient to fall asleep before revving up the impulses.
So, I have begun this adjustment period that may take several weeks. I am enthused, however, because on this first evening using my Inspire system I actually slept uninterrupted for about three hours. That is certainly not an inadequate amount of solid sleep for most people, but for me it was incredible. I never sleep for periods of time lasting more than 20-30 minutes if that. Now, mind you, I am not quite ready to fire the sheep I’ve been counting all these years, but I have suggested they may need to start getting their resumes together.