New Device Could Help Treat Sleep Apnea and Blood Pressure

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A recent French study has found a remedy that may be able to help sleep apnea while also treating high blood pressure.

The study was published as a research abstract in the Journal of Dental Sleep Medicine. Researchers monitored 299 patients, 77 of whom had high blood pressure in addition to sleep apnea, and had them use an oral appliance over the course of nine months.

The device looks like a mouth guard and is custom fit by a dentist for each individual. It is worn while the patient sleeps, and it keeps their mouth open to leave an unobstructed airway.

The study analyzed how the treatment worked with each patient, looking at their oxygen levels, sleep apnea symptoms, and quality of life.

Researchers found that the oral device lowered blood pressure. In 59% of the patients, by using the device to treat sleep apnea, they normalized their blood pressure at the same time.

Most adults can tell when they haven’t had a good night’s sleep and can see it in friends and family as well. The signs are all the same: tiredness during the day, moodiness, and lack of focus, among other symptoms of poor sleep. However, serious sleep issues such as sleep apnea can pose many other health risks in addition to mood swings and lack of energy.

According to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects about 25 million Americans. OSA is caused by the tongue and the soft palate collapsing into the back of the throat as a person sleeps, effectively blocking their airway. OSA is a well-documented disease, and has been linked to other health issues such as hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure.

This new device used in the French study can be used every once in a while in place of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask, also sometimes referred to as sleep apnea machines. CPAP masks are the traditional treatment method for sleep apnea and have worked with patients for years. This oral device, however, can provide a break from wearing the mask every night while not sacrificing treatment.

Because this new treatment is custom fit by a dentist, it works by keeping the lower jaw moved forward and therefore keeping the airway open.

These devices are light, easy to travel with, and are highly effective for those with mild or moderate sleep apnea, according to the study. However, they have not yet been proven as a long-term solution for those with severe sleep apnea.

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