apnea_research

Rik Krohn displays the remote control unit he uses to turn on an experimental nerve stimulator to combat his sleep apnea.

Loud snoring may do more than irritate your spouse: It can signal sleep apnea , depriving you of enough zzzz’s to trigger a car crash, even a heart attack.

Now scientists are beginning to test if an implanted pacemaker-like device might help certain sufferers, keeping their airways open by zapping the tongue during sleep. Wait, what does your tongue have to do with a good night’s sleep?

One of the main causes of obstructive sleep apnea is that the tongue and throat muscles relax too much during sleep, enough to temporarily collapse and block breathing for 30 seconds or so at a time. The person jerks awake and gasps, a cycle that can repeat itself 30 or more times an hour, depriving patients of crucial deep sleep.

The idea behind the experimental implant: Stimulate the nerve that controls the base of the tongue with a mild electrical current during sleep, and maybe it will stay toned and in place like it does during the day rather than becoming floppy. A Minneapolis-based firm plans a study in to see if so-called hypoglossal nerve stimulation really could work.

Via Times of India

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