For many Canadians that live with sleep apnea, it becomes a common scene: A machine that sits beside the bed with hoses, face masks and a multitude of buttons and blinking lights. It can at times feel like you’ve moved from the comforts of your own home into a hospital room.
But there are thousands of Canadians that are told each year that they suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea and are advised that only way to manage it is with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, more commonly known as a CPAP.
Users immediately started to envision themselves hooked up to an intimidating and terrifying machine that has more bells and whistles than their morning coffee maker. And while many users see the machine as just an intimidating and expensive resolution to their dry mouth and snoring problems its use does have many long term health benefits as well.
Whatever the reason, CPAP users may now have it a little bit easier, as a new product is awaiting approval and funding in Boston, Massachusetts.
Stephen Marsh has created the prototype for a micro CPAP machine and anticipates that it will be the new frontier in sleep apnea. Airing is a battery-operated and disposable miniature CPAP machine that has no cords, hoses or straps. The machine weighs in at less than one ounce and fits directly into the user’s nostrils via two small nose buds.
For many that struggle with sleep apnea, this could be the devise they've been dreaming about. There are no hoses that constrain you to one sleep position, no head straps that can get tangled in your hair and no more waking your bed partner with thunder-like snoring. It could also revolutionize the way that people look at sleep apnea and allow users to feel more confident about their decision to use the CPAP machines to their full potential.
The funding campaign for Airing launched on Monday, and since then has earned $537,262 USD (537 per cent of its funding goal). The device, which is designed to be signle-use and recycled after the eight-hour sleep cycle, will cost about $3 USD when it becomes available.
“CPAP is not something I would openly broadcast that I use,” said one current CPAP user, who did not wish to be identified. “But I will admit that I feel better the next day after using it. It’s not the most comfortable thing to wear when you’re trying to sleep so because of that I don’t wear it every night as I was told to. Most nights when I do use my machine it results in me taking it off in the night because I’ve got a hose restricting me.”
For those users that are frustrated with the cords and restraints, the result is often them not using their machine as often as they should. Not follow doctor’s orders on how to deal with sleep apnea or misusing a CPAP machine can lead to a long list of health problems down the road such as headaches, irritability, high blood pressure, weight problems, fatigue and problems concentrating.
“Most patients would rather not use these machines whether that’s because of aesthetic or physical reasons. It can feel like going to bed with Darth Vader,” said James MacFarlane, PhD, Director of Education and Clinical Consultant at MedSleep. “But, that’s why we need to make sure it’s making them feel better and give the CPAP an honest chance. Once users get used to the machine it remains part of their routine.”
He went on to advise that CPAP machines that are often shown appear intimidating and cumbersome because organizations are showing machines that are far too big for the patients or outdated in comparison to what is available on the market now.
“It (micro CPAP) may be effective for some patients with just snoring or slight apnea problems. But, for patients with moderate or severe sleep apnea, I don’t believe it would generate adequate flow. We have similar devises that are unpowered but people find these very uncomfortable,” said MacFarlane. “These might be better for travel or temporary relief.”
So, when will we see these micro CPAP machines on the Canadian market? Only time will tell. It is currently awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S and has launched an online funding campaign. For now, those with sleep apnea will have to continue using the machines that are currently on the market.
Even if that does mean looking like Darth Vader in pajamas each and every night.