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Giving obstructive sleep apnoea sufferers a more comfortable sleep

15 January 2019

A trial being run at Austin Health is hoping to help sufferers with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) to better manage their condition.

An estimated 10 per cent of adult Australians may have the disorder, which causes blocked airways during sleep, and be unaware they have the condition.

The most common form of treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to apply pressure to the upper airways, but Dr Maree Barnes is looking at how the disorder can be treated without the machine, which can cause discomfort to some during sleep. 

The gold standard treatment is CPAP, but unfortunately up to half of those prescribed CPAP will find it difficult to use,said Dr Barnes.

Therefore it is important to develop alternative solutions.

“The nerve stimulation device that we are trialling will stick to the chin area and stimulate the tongue muscles, allowing the airways to remain open during the night.

“Trial participants will wear the device each night and remove it in the morning.”

According to the Sleep Research Society, the total annual cost of poor and inadequate sleep in Australia in 2016-17 was $45.21 billion.

A significant proportion of that is due to OSA,” said Dr Barnes.

Common symptoms of the condition include day-time sleepiness, snoring and observed pauses during sleep.  

Dr Barnes said OSA can cause many complications and patients are prone to higher blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and dementia. 

“OSA patients may have difficulty concentrating, have poor memory, slowed reaction times and reduced the quality of life.

They may also have increased risk of accidents on the road26 per cent of car accidents are due to sleepiness.

The trial will require participants to sleep with the device for a six-month period, including an overnight stay in the Austin Health sleep laboratory once a month.

Ideal candidates for the trial include individuals who are currently diagnosed with OSA and are finding the CPAP device frustrating to sleep with.

For more information about the study or to register as a candidate please contact Austin Health on 9496 3688 or email or

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