LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - For an estimated 18 million Americans dealing with sleep apnea, a new device could provide relief for the restless.
"I snored like a freight train," Charles Hawley said. "My wife could be a floor above or below me and I could still wake her up."
Hawley, now 50 years old, recalls being diagnosed with sleep apnea in his twenties.
"You don't have energy, your health is deteriorating and really I thought it was going to take its toll and shorten my life," he said.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which the body stops breathing during sleep and the brain sends signals to wake up. The problem is, this can happen hundreds of times during an average night's sleep—leaving people to wake up feeling groggy and tired even after eight hours of rest.
For Hawley, the health complications were just as daunting as the personal implications. He said he slept in a bed away from his wife for years, because of the severity of his snoring.
Primary treatments for sleep apnea are weight loss, changing sleeping positions, and eventually a CPAP machine. The machine has a mask that fits around the nose and mouth to provide additional air while sleeping to avoid the constant cycle of waking up during rest associated with sleep apnea. However, doctors report the CPAP machine only works for less than a third of patients prescribed the device.
Until now, there's been no alternative.
"Folks say, 'You know, I went from tired all the time to enjoying life now," Dr. Andrew Gould, Board Certified allergologist, said.
Dr. Gould was heavily involved in the research and development of the new device called Inspire.
The device, about half the size of a smart phone, stimulates muscles during sleep to allow for synchronized breathing. When a person takes a breath, the airway is opened by moving the tongue forward. It was given FDA clearance in 2014.
Inspire is implanted in the chest in a procedure lasting only a couple of hours. Dr. Gould said three small incisions are made on the neck, chest and rib. After the device is implanted, doctors wait a month to turn it on, giving the wounds time to heal.
Those three scars are a small price to pay for people like Hawley. "When I'm sleeping I'm getting the best sleep I've gotten in year," he said.
Dr. Gould points out that only certain people will be eligible for the Inspire implant; your doctor will be able to help you determine your eligibility.
So far, 10 patients have undergone the surgery and treatment under Dr. Gould's care. He said the majority have seen dramatic improvements in their sleeping patterns and overall health.
For more on Inspire, click here to visit the company's website.
To reach Dr. Gould of Advanced ENT Allergy, click here.