For those suffering with the disorder sleep apnea, an important device has entered the market to reduce this sleeping disorder. By implementing Inspire® Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) therapy, researchers have significantly improved patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. From this study, they found that patients with OSA could reduce their daytime sleepiness and reduce the severity of their condition by 70%.

Called the Stimulation Therapy for Apnea Reduction (STAR Trial), researchers from 22 medical centers in the US and Europe evaluated the effectiveness of upper airway stimulation for sleep apnea.

Let’s remember that OSA affects more than 8 million men and 4 million women in the US, and is twice as common in men. Characterized by repeated episodes of upper airways collapsing during sleep, this condition causes the sufferer to stop breathing on and off many times during sleep, sometimes for a minute or longer. And half of these suffers are overweight. Repeated episodes of sleep apnea can lead to daytime fatigue, and put you at risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and even death.

In this study, all patients had surgery to implant the device. This is how it works: During sleep, the device stimulates the nerve of the tongue, which enlarges and stabilizes the airways so that the patient can control his or her breathing.

One of the greatest advantages of this device is that it senses breathing patterns and then delivers mild stimulation to a patient’s airway muscles to keep the airway open during sleep. Patients also have a “controller” to turn on the device at night during sleep.

Using such sleep-disorder stimulation systems improved sleep apnea episodes by  68 to 70 percent, the research claims. Kathy Gaberson, one participant of the study, said, “My short-term memory has improved significantly, and the surgery has made a huge difference in my quality of life.” She later added, “My apnea episodes went from 23 times an hour to just two.”

In Gaberson’s case, improvements can be dramatic. While other treatments for OSA include weight loss, upper airway surgeries, oral appliances, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

Whether your general physician suggests the STAR therapy or CPAP or other surgeries, you should consult an ENT specialist for a second opinion.