Low-cost device fights snoring

March 11, 2009 4:41:31 AM PDT
Daytime at the Allen household is quiet, but come nighttime it's a different story. "I think I can do it for you," Denean Allen said as she imitated her father David's snoring. She said it got so loud she could hear him from down the hallway. "I had to start sleeping with the door closed, it was that loud," she Denean said.

"I come from a family of snorers, my father, my grandfather so I guess I just inherited it," David Allen said.

But Denean suspected her father also inherited sleep apnea. It's a condition where people temporarily stop breathing several times throughout the night. It's main symptom is snoring. Untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems and not to mention dangerous daytime sleepiness.

"I noticed I would pull up to a light and I would actually dose off and catch myself and that was scary," David said.

So he went in for a sleep study. He was hooked up to dozens of electrodes and his sleep was monitored. Dr. Samuel Krachman of Temple University Hospital said David has positional sleep apnea which means it's worse when he's lying on his back.

David first started wearing a C-PAP, or continuous positive airway pressure mask. It's the traditional and most-effective way to treat sleep apnea. But because his problem is positional, he was also given a new device to try.

It's called the Zzoma and was developed by Dr. Krachman and another Philadelphia doctor.

"It will effectively keep them on their side and it's a hard foam so they can't roll on it at all. They'd be like a turtle, you know perched back otherwise and it's really almost impossible to get on their back," Dr. Krachman said.

And his studies show in 38 patients with mild to moderate positional sleep apnea, the Zzoma was just as effective as the traditional C-PAP. David Allen said it's also more comfortable. But because Dr. Krachman has a financial interest in the device, we took it to an unbiased sleep specialist, Dr. Stephen Akers of Cooper University Hospital.

"I think it's a pretty good idea," Dr. Akers said, adding, "In those people who tend to only snore on their back or whose snoring is much louder on their back, this could probably be quite effective."

Still he cautions it won't work for everyone and snorers should first see a doctor.

As for David, the Zzoma is working. He said he's sleeping longer, feels better, and there's no more complaints from his family.

"It's quieter, you don't hear a thing," Denean said.

The Zzoma costs about $70. Right now, it's only approved as an anti-snoring device, but Dr. Krachman said they've applied for FDA-approval for the device to also treat positional sleep apnea. If they win that approval, the cost of the Zzoma could be covered by insurance.

The Zzoma is available online at: www.zzomasleep.com

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