Sleep Clinic Brings New Treatment To Central Ohio

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Just as we turn our clocks back from Daylight Savings Time this weekend, there's new help for people who struggle to get enough sleep.  A local sleep clinic is one of the first in Central Ohio to offer a new type of treatment.

When you're a child and it is bedtime, sleep comes easily. But as we age, that may not happen. The Institute of Medicine says up to 70 million Americans can't get a good night's sleep. Former Urbana University football player Xavier Myers knows it well. When he was a senior, friends told him he snored.

"My senior year at college I could sleep all day. When I was awake, I was still tired, still drained," he said. 

So he came to the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute for a sleep test and help. He learned that he has sleep apnea and stops breathing many times at night. The traditional treatment for sleep apnea is C-PAP.  That stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.  The therapy requires people to sleep in a mask and hose, while hooked to a machine. It blows air to keep the airway open.

"There is a subset of patients - and quite a few, if you take across the country - that can't tolerate this therapy," explained Dr. Asim Roy, a physician with the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute.

This sleep specialist said there's a new choice that dispenses with cumbersome equipment and replaces it with an implant.  It looks a pacemaker, and doctors place it under the skin in the upper right chest, then connect two wires.

"There's a wire that goes to the nerve that controls your tongue. It's called a hypoglossal nerve. And then there's a wire that goes to the chest wall to know when you're breathing," he said.  "Essentially, it is an upper airway stimulator, or pacemaker for the tongue."

While people sleep, it keeps the tongue forward and airway open.  The patients use a remote to turn it on before they go to bed, then click it off in the morning.  

A study on the Inspire Implant in the New England Journal of Medicine found patients had a 68 percent reduction in the number of times they stopped breathing while asleep.  Good news, the doctor said, since sleep apnea is linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke.

"You can improve their quality of life, and you can improve their outcomes from cardiovascular disease," Dr. Roy said.

Xavier knows the value of a solid night's sleep.

"I have energy. I'm just the happiest person," he said with a smile.

WEB EXTRA: Learn more about the treatment