News, Culture & Society

Night-time face masks to tackle snoring can help millions with sleep apnoea, scientists claim 


Buying or leasing a car in the UK? Check MOT of car before you do.

Face masks worn during the night to tackle snoring could help millions of patients with mild sleep apnoea, scientists claim

  • The mask is part of a CPAP machine, already given to people with severe apnoea
  • Air is pumped through the mask worn over the nose to keep airways open
  • This is the first time experts have found it could be useful to treat mild apnoea  

A face mask worn during night-time could help millions of patients with mild sleep apnoea, scientists claim. 

The common condition is caused by the airways narrowing during sleep, which can lead to snoring and restricted breathing. 

NHS doctors are already able to dish out the masks – called CPAP machine pumps – to patients with moderate to severe apnoea.

However, Imperial College London researchers have now proven the gadgets could help patients with mild cases. 

The mask attaches to a machine which gently pumps air into the mouth or nose as patients sleep, keeping the airways open. 

Results of a trial of 200 patients with mild apnoea showed the masks helped curb extreme fatigue – a common complaint of the condition.  

A night-time face masks to tackle snoring can help millions of patients with mild sleep apnoea, scientists claim. The mask is part of a CPAP machine which pumps air into the nose or mouth to keep the airways open (stock picture of the technology)

Eleven NHS sleep centres across the UK, including the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, were involved in the study.

Some 115 patients were asked to use the CPAP for three months, while 118 received standard care for mild sleep apnoea.

This includes advice on improving sleep and avoiding anything that can exacerbate the condition, such as drinking alcohol before bed or smoking.

Patients who used the CPAP machine had an improvement of 10 points on a vitality scale, compared to those who received standard care.

WHAT IS SLEEP APNOEA AND HOW IS IT TREATED? 

Sleep apnoea is when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep. The most common type is called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). 

Symptoms of sleep apnoea mainly happen during sleep. They include:

  • breathing stopping and starting
  • making gasping, snorting or choking noises 
  • waking up a lot 
  • loud snoring 

During the day, symptoms include:

  • feeling very tired 
  • finding it hard to concentrate 
  • having mood swings 
  • having a headache in the morning

Treatment

People with moderate or severe apnoea may need to use a CPAP machine which is given for free on the NHS.

A CPAP machine gently pumps air into a mask worn over the mouth or nose during sleep. 

Less common treatments for sleep apnoea include a gum shield-like device that holds your airways open while you sleep or surgery to help your breathing, such as removing large tonsils.

It’s recommended people with the condition try and lose weight if they are overweight, sleep on their side, not smoke or drink too much alcohol – especially shortly before going to sleep – and not taking sleeping pills.

Source: NHS

The vitality scale assesses a range of factors such as sleep quality, energy levels and daytime sleepiness – all of which are impacted in patients with sleep apnoea. 

Improvements in fatigue, depression and emotional functioning were also seen in the patients who used the CPAP devices. 

The researchers said they hadn’t figured out how much treating mild cases of sleep apnoea with a CPAP machine would cost the NHS.

In previous studies they have shown that, if used correctly, the machines are cost-effective. 

The CPAP machine is designed to hold the airway open by sending air at pressure into the upper airway to stop it collapsing or narrowing.

The findings of the trial – funded by ResMed, which manufactures CPAP machines – were published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Professor Mary Morrell, lead author, said: ‘Around 60 per cent of all cases of sleep apnoea are classed as mild. 

‘But until now we didn’t know whether a CPAP would be helpful to these patients.’

Dr Julia Kelly, first author of the scientific paper, said this treatment ‘should now be considered’ for patients with mild sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea, of which there are two different types, affects over one billion adults globally, including around 18million Americans.

Severe cases of sleep apnoea are thought to affect up to 1.5million in the UK, with some estimates suggesting up to eight million people may have a mild form. 

Professor Morrell said: ‘We are seeing increasing cases of sleep apnoea, and in a wide range of patients. 

‘Although the condition was previously thought to mainly affect overweight men, we now know it also strikes post-menopausal women, the elderly, and even children.’ 

The research was funded by ResMed, who manufacture CPAP machines, but the funder had no involvement in the trial methods or data analysis.

HOW DOES THE MASK IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE? 

Patricia Ware, 62, from Southall, tried a CPAP machine after being diagnosed with sleep apnoea at age 60.

She said: ‘My energy levels had been low for a while, but I started to consider whether I should see my GP when my husband told me I was snoring very loudly. At one stage I even woke myself up through snoring.

‘I finally decided to make an appointment when I started nodding off at work. I was working at a school at the time, and during the day colleagues told me that I’d fallen asleep. I was horrified as I didn’t remember drifting off.’

Mrs Ware’s doctor sent her for tests at Harefield Hospital, which confirmed her diagnosis, and the medical team asked if she wanted to take part in a trial using a CPAP machine.

She said: ‘At first it felt slightly strange – and involved wearing a mask that just fitted over my nose.

‘However it was soon discovered I was a mouth-breather, and so I was given a mask that covered my nose and mouth. After initial adjustments I found the machine very comfortable, and now don’t even notice I’m wearing it.

‘After a year and a half of using the machine I now feel like the old me – I have my energy levels back, and am now working as a steward at a football training ground, and have not fallen asleep at work since.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.