New Solution for an Old Sleep Problem

Date: November 1, 2010      Publication: Bottom Line Secrets      Source: Mark A. Stengler      Print:

Loud snoring. Waking up dozens, even hundreds, of times a night. No wonder you or your spouse can’t get any sleep.

One reason for these disturbing symptoms: A common condition known as obstructive sleep apnea, which causes breathing to stop during sleep because soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses and closes the airway. But your days of fitful sleep may be over. That’s because the FDA has approved a treatment option called Provent. But first a little background: One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is a therapy called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which an air pump blows air into a hose connected to a mask worn on the face. The air pressure created by CPAP keeps the airway open. Although CPAP can be very effective, the mask can feel cumbersome and the machine can be noisy, so many patients stop using it.

The new treatment, Provent, features a less cumbersome way to keep the airway open. Many of my patients have switched from CPAP to Provent and report that it is more comfortable.

How it works: Patients place a small, disposable adhesive patch over the opening of each nostril. Each patch contains a small valve. When you inhale, the valves open, allowing you to breathe freely. During exhalation, the valves partially close, increasing air pressure in the nasal passages, which keeps the tissue pushed away so that breathing is easier. In a study conducted by the makers of Provent and other researchers and published in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 34 study participants used Provent all night on 94% of nights during a month. While Provent was not tested head-to-head against CPAP, if it is used consistently, it will have a greater impact on sleep apnea than CPAP, which is used inconsistently by patients.

My advice: If you have sleep apnea, try, especially if you do not use your CPAP regularly. Available by prescription only and covered by some insurance, Provent costs $50 for a 30-night supply. CPAP machines cost between $200 and $800. Side effects of Provent include mouth-breathing–related nasal, sinus or middle-ear discomfort. People with severe respiratory disorders, heart failure or very low blood pressure should not use Provent.

Source: Mark A. Stengler, NMD, founder and medical director, Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine, Encinitas, California, author of the Health Revelations newsletter and The Natural Physician's Healing Therapies (Bottom Line Books).