The director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sleep Surgery division is researching the efficacy of an implantable electrode system – similar to a pacemaker – that stimulates the tongue during sleep to combat blockage of the airway. Obstruction of the airway can lead to sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition where breathing is interrupted during sleep.
When normal breathing stops during sleep, it can lead to a number of negative health consequences, including decreased oxygen flow to crucial parts of the body, disturbances to regular heart rhythm, and inability to get a good night’s rest, to name a few.
These debilitating effects can stem from blockage in the airway that hinders the proper flow of breath. The tongue, as well as these other structures in the body, can become too relaxed during sleep and obstruct the airway:
- Soft palate tissue at the back of the mouth
- Muscles or soft tissue in the throat
After determining what’s causing your sleep apnea, a qualified physician can recommend treatment options to keep your airway clear during sleep. Though upper airway stimulation systems like the ones being researched at the University of Pittsburgh are still in the initial phases, there are also a number of existing sleep apnea treatments that could help you breathe more easily during sleep and preserve your health and rest.
If you believe you’re suffering from sleep apnea, please contact a local sleep doctor or call 1-866-727-6275 (1-8-NO-PAP-MASK) today to begin exploring treatment options.