Snoring and tired? Sleep Apnea treatments evolving to help you get a better night’s rest

We all can use a good night’s sleep, but research shows many of us aren’t getting one! An American Academy of Sleep Medicine study found 30 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, but only 6 million have been diagnosed. That leaves millions of people feeling tired and rundown day after day.

Boston 25 News sat down with Dr.Phillip Huyett, the Director of Sleep Surgery at Mass Eye and Ear, to ask about the serious health problems that can result.

“So not on a night-to-night basis, but over many years or even decades of leaving sleep apnea untreated, it’s an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, early dementia,” Dr. Huyett said.

He explained that sleep apnea is a condition where your airway collapses while sleeping. Consequences include snoring, bed partner disruption, dropping oxygen levels, and waking up repeatedly, as your brain intervenes to prevent suffocation in the middle of the night.

Both men and women are affected.

“So premenopausal women are effectively protected from sleep apnea to a degree. Once they go through menopause and lose the effects of progesterone on their upper airway muscle tone, they’re essentially at the same risk as an equivalent male.,” Dr. Huyett explained.

The good news is there are a number of ways to successfully treat sleep apnea, including most recently, a device called Inspire.

Dr. Huyett cautions, that Inspire is not the first stop for sleep apnea treatment. That’s still the CPAP machine, where patients wear a mask or nasal pillow insert attached to a hose that pumps pressurized air into your nose and lungs, keeping your airway open so you can sleep.

“In my practice, I have far more CPAP patients than anything else, including all of the surgeries combined that I do. It is the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea, but the reality is that not everyone tolerates it because it’s not the right treatment option for them,” Dr. Huyett said.

For some, not the majority, CPAP machines can be cumbersome and the rush of air can be hard to adjust to. Other treatments include nasal or oral surgery and even a specialized mouthpiece.

Dick Stagnone of Holbrook says he tried all kinds of procedures, but nothing worked for him.

“I’ve literally had my spouse ask me if I’m awake while I’m driving and I would lie to her and say yeah,” Stagnone recalled. “The sleep apnea really does take a toll on you.”

Dr. Huyett says Inspire can work for people like Stagnone, with a minimally invasive outpatient procedure.

“So we time the stimulation to move your tongue when you’re breathing in. And the way that occurs is that we put an implantable pulse generator like this in your chest that looks like a pacemaker. It’s the battery and computer that runs the operation. But connected to this is also a breathing sensor that goes in the chest. So it’s a surgery to implant this medical device that, when turned on, stimulates the airway to open up with every breath,” Dr. Huyett explained.

Stagnone says he activates the device at bedtime, and it’s been a game changer.

“Now it’s like every morning is really something to look forward to: getting a great night’s sleep feeling refreshed, no brain fog,” Stagnone said. “So it’s been a huge benefit.”

The bottom line here — if you suspect you have a sleep issue, Dr. Huyett suggests you get sleep tested, to determine what the next best steps are for you.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW

Comments on this article