A high-tech anti-snoring device could soon be available free of charge from the NHS after successful trials.
The 500-pound device, called the eXciteOSA, zaps the tongue and upper airway with a weak electrical current. Repeated use strengthens tongue muscles, making them less likely to collapse during sleep – which causes snoring noises.
Experts say the device, which is worn in the mouth for 20 minutes a day, is to be offered to some NHS patients after a successful pilot study.
It’s designed to combat a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, in which the muscles in the throat relax and block the airways. As a result, those affected can no longer breathe for a short time and wake up. They can also snore extremely loudly.
Over time, the repeated interruptions in oxygen supply and sleep disturbances can be life-threatening and increase levels of stress hormones in the body. Untreated sleep apnea is closely linked to serious health problems such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
The high-tech anti-snoring device eXciteOSA (pictured in use) may soon be available free of charge from the NHS after a successful trial.
The eXciteOSA (pictured) zaps the tongue and upper airway with a low-level electrical current. Repeated use strengthens tongue muscles, making them less likely to collapse during sleep – which causes snoring noises
NHS patients are currently being offered a treatment called Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP), which involves wearing a face mask that blows air down your throat to keep it open while you sleep.
This can be uncomfortable and the treatment does not cure sleep apnea, it only relieves the symptoms.
Some patients with the most aggressive forms of sleep apnea may be offered surgery to remove their tonsils to improve breathing, but this is rarely offered by the NHS.
The eXciteOSA’s electrical currents are imperceptible to the user, but studies show that within six weeks it can strengthen the tongue and reduce the risk of falling back during sleep.
The mobile app-controlled gadget is then only needed once a week to ensure that the effect is maintained.
Mr Yousuf Saleem, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who led the study, says: “There is a gap in NHS treatments for sleep apnea patients who do not have surgery can’t and won’t I want to try CPAP. Using such devices to treat patients at home could free up a lot of resources.”
An estimated 1.5 million Britons are living with sleep apnea. The biggest risk factor is weight, as excess body weight reduces airway space. Around 70 per cent of all sufferers are considered obese and are usually encouraged to lose weight before being offered NHS treatment.
The mobile app-controlled gadget is then only needed once a week to ensure that the effect is maintained
The NHS study of the eXciteOSA device recruited 20 Britons with sleep apnea. Mr. Saleem noted that 18 of them saw a significant reduction in symptoms, slept better and had fewer breathing difficulties. The study also revealed that the partners of the participants also slept significantly better because they snored less.
One patient benefiting from the device is Richard Ballantine, 61, from Dorset, who has suffered from sleep apnea for over 26 years. He spent more than £8,000 on equipment to fight the disease but none of it was effective.
He says: “I often fell asleep at work. I would have days when I wouldn’t think straight. It’s not a great way to live your life.
He even started napping before getting in the car to drive long distances for fear of falling asleep at the wheel.
Despite the seriousness of his condition, Richard was told by his local NHS hospital that he was unable to get an appointment to assess whether a CPAP mask could help due to the long waiting list.
In 2021, Richard’s partner saw an ad online for the eXciteOSA and suggested he try it.
He says that within six weeks he noticed a significant improvement in his sleep duration.
“I have a more active brain. I’m full of energy. Life is much more manageable and I am much happier.”