Some sleep apnea patients see improvement with new breathing tool


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A new solution may be on the horizon for the 30 million people in the U.S. who suffer from sleep apnea.

In a Finland study, a new breathing device showed promising results in reducing symptoms of the disorder, according to researchers.

The device, called WellO2, uses resistance training to strengthen throat muscles and steam breathing to humidify airways.

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In the small study conducted by University of Turku’s Sleep Research Center, 25 participants with mild to moderate sleep apnea used the device at home twice a day for three months, breathing in and out 30 times per session.

At the end of the study period, the participants reported increased respiratory muscle strength, reduced nighttime breathing interruptions, improved sleep quality and decreased insomnia, according to a press release.

Sleep anea split

In a Finland study, a new breathing device, shown at right, has shown promising results in reducing symptoms of the disorder, according to researchers. (iStock/WellO)

Snoring occurrences were also reduced.

The findings were presented on June 5 at the Nordic Lung Congress 2024 in Helsinki, Finland.

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The study will now be peer-reviewed by the scientific congress, then will be published later this year, according to the researchers.

WellO2

The device, called WellO2, uses resistance training to strengthen throat muscles, plus steam breathing to humidify airways. (WellO2)

“Currently, there are no available technologies or medications to treat sleep apnea,” lead author Dr. Usame Al-Rammahi, a doctoral researcher of pulmonary diseases and clinical allergology at the University of Turku, told Fox News Digital.

“Our first data suggest that respiratory muscle training may be the answer that not only alleviates symptoms, but also addresses the underlying cause of OSA by strengthening muscles.”

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CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is currently the most common treatment for sleep apnea — but about a third of patients struggle to adapt to it, Al-Rammahi noted. 

WellO2 is designed to be used as an add-on therapy with CPAP.

man sleeping in cpap mask

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is right now the most common treatment for sleep apnea, yet about a third of patients struggle to adapt to it. (iStock)

“Even though CPAP should be used as needed, WellO2 training can be used as an additional therapy, since it addresses underlying reasons and may lessen CPAP adverse effects by moistening the airways,” Al-Rammahi told Fox News Digital. 

Limitations of the study

This is a preliminary report and research is currently ongoing, Al-Rammahi said. 

The study also did not include a control group.

“There is no quick fix for respiratory rehabilitation.”

“Nonetheless, given that the study compared their results to each participant’s personal findings, those persons were the controls,” Al-Rammahi said.

“Despite the lack of a control group, the findings remain important. Qualified questionnaires were used, and polysomnography (PSG) was a thorough and trustworthy procedure that provided substantial results.”

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Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, a neuroscientist and sleep specialist at Wesper in New York, was not involved in the study but commented on the device’s potential. 

“Sleep apnea is primarily caused by obstructions in the upper airway that block the flow of oxygen into the lungs,” she said.                                                                                  

Snoring

Approximately 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep apnea. (iStock)

“This device is designed to strengthen the muscles of the upper airway and reduce these obstructions from occurring,” she also told Fox News Digital.

While the device was shown to offer “some improvement” when tested in a small population of patients, Rohrscheib noted that use of the device was only correlated with “moderate improvement” in the number of respiratory events.

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“That means it’s not guaranteed to work for every patient or to completely eliminate your sleep apnea symptoms,” she said. 

“Further, the device was not tested in patients with severe sleep apnea — thus, patients should not rely on this device alone for treatment for their sleep apnea without the guidance of a sleep physician.”

WellO2

“Patients should not rely on this device alone for treatment for their sleep apnea without the guidance of a sleep physician,” a sleep expert said. (WellO2 )

Katri Lindberg, a respiratory specialist nurse in Finland who works with WellO2 as a breathing expert, said she recommends WellO2 training regularly for individuals who want to stop snoring or for whom CPAP devices are not suitable for treating sleep apnea

“The research results are only preliminary findings from a small study, but they provide strong indications that we have found a rehabilitation tool that can now rehabilitate the symptoms of a large group of people worldwide, rather than merely alleviating them,” Lindberg told Fox News Digital.

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“The study also indicates that there is no quick fix for respiratory rehabilitation. To remove symptoms and keep them at bay, regular, although relatively small, amounts of respiratory training are needed.”



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