A high-tech anti-snoring device could soon be available for free on the NHS following successful trial.
The £500 gadget, called the eXciteOSA, zaps the tongue and upper airway with a mild electrical current. Repeated use strengthens the muscles in the tongue, making it less likely to collapse during sleep – which causes snoring sounds.
Experts say the device, worn in the mouth for 20 minutes a day, is set to be offered to some NHS patients following a successful pilot study.
It is designed to combat a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea, where muscles in the throat relax and block the airways. This briefly stops sufferers from being able to breathe and wakes them up. They may also snore extremely loudly.
Over time, the repeated interruptions to oxygen supply and disruption to sleep can have life-threatening consequences, pushing up levels of stress hormones in the body. Untreated sleep apnoea is closely linked with serious health problems, including diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
High-tech anti-snoring device eXciteOSA (pictured in use) could soon be available for free on the NHS following successful trial.
The eXciteOSA (pictured) zaps the tongue and upper airway with a mild electrical current. Repeated use strengthens the muscles in the tongue, making it less likely to collapse during sleep – which causes snoring sounds
Currently, NHS patients are offered a treatment called continuous positive air pressure (CPAP), which involves wearing a face mask that blows air into the throat to keep it open while asleep.
This can be uncomfortable and the treatment does not cure sleep apnoea, it only reduces the symptoms.
Some patients with the most aggressive forms of sleep apnoea may be offered surgery to remove their tonsils in a bid to help improve breathing, but this is rarely offered on the NHS.
The eXciteOSA’s electrical currents are imperceptible to the user, but studies show that within six weeks it can strengthen the tongue and reduce the risk of it falling back during sleep.
The gadget, controlled using a mobile phone app, is then needed just once a week to ensure that the effects are maintained.
Mr Yousuf Saleem, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust who headed up the trial, says: ‘There is a gap in NHS treatments for sleep apnoea patients who can’t get surgery and don’t want to try CPAP. And a lot of resources could be freed up by using devices like this to treat patients at home.’
An estimated 1.5 million Britons are living with sleep apnoea. The biggest risk factor is weight, as the excess body weight reduces the amount of space in the airway. Around 70 per cent of all sufferers are classed as obese, and are usually told to lose weight before being offered NHS treatment.
The gadget, controlled using a mobile phone app, is then needed just once a week to ensure that the effects are maintained
The NHS trial of the eXciteOSA device recruited 20 Britons with sleep apnoea. Mr Saleem found that 18 of them saw a significant reduction in symptoms, slept better and had less difficulty breathing. The study also found that the partners of participants also slept considerably better because there was less snoring.
One patient to benefit from the device is Richard Ballantine, 61, from Dorset, who had endured sleep apnoea for over 26 years. He spent more than £8,000 on devices to combat the condition but none were effective.
He says: ‘I was often drifting off to sleep at work. I would have days where I wouldn’t be thinking straight. It’s not a great way to live your life’
He even began taking naps before getting in the car to drive long distances for fear of falling asleep at the wheel.
Despite the severity of his condition, Richard was told by his local NHS hospital he was unable to get an appointment to assess if a CPAP mask might help because of the lengthy waiting list.
In 2021, Richard’s partner saw an advert for the eXciteOSA online and suggested he try it.
He says that within six weeks, he saw a major improvement in how much sleep he was getting.
‘I have a more active brain. I am full of beans. Life is much more manageable and I am much happier.’