WASHINGTON — Sleep deprived Americans have a new option to address hard-to-treat nighttime breathing problems: a first-of-kind device that keeps airways open by zapping them with an electrical current.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the pacemaker-like device from Inspire Medical Systems for sleep apnea patients who have trouble with the current standard of care: machines that blow air through a bedtime mask.
One of the main causes of sleep apnea is that the tongue and throat muscles relax too much during sleep, often blocking breathing and waking patients up. People who suffer from the condition lose crucial deep sleep time and are at higher risk for car accidents, heart attack, and stroke. Inspire’s device treats the problem by stimulating a nerve that controls key airway muscles so that they stay in place, rather than flopping around and interfering with breathing.
Between 12 million and 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, according to the National Institutes of Health. It’s particularly common in people who are overweight and in middle-aged men, but anyone can have it.
The FDA approved the new technology from Minneapolis-based Inspire Medical Systems for patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.