ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — We can all appreciate a good night’s sleep but for many, sleep apnea makes that impossible.
For years, the go-to treatment has been a CPAP or a continuous positive airway pressure machine. There’s something new on the market that is giving some patients back their peaceful sleep without the clunky equipment.
For Linda and Mark Cole, retirement is a lot more peaceful these days.
“I know I’d had sleep issues for probably 20 years, but sleep studies hadn’t shown anything until then,” said Linda Cole.
In 2018, Cole got sick. During a procedure to check her lungs, doctors discovered she had sleep apnea. She met with a sleep specialist and started using a CPAP machine.
“The first night that I had the CPAP, it was one that went into my nose and I couldn’t stand it. I took it off after a couple hours, I’m like, this is just not going to work.”
Cole didn’t give up, but said she hated every minute of it.
“I had a doctor explain to me that a CPAP is like going down the road 60 miles an hour with your head hanging out the window and breathe that way all night. And that’s really what it feels like… I’d go to bed and I’m like, I’d say to him, ‘I just don’t know if I can use this the rest of my life.'”
Dr. Kelly Waters is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist with Corewell Health.
About a third of the population snores, and about a third of the snorers have sleep apnea, according to Waters.
She said they have a few options to offer patients with sleep apnea. The first line of defense is a CPAP machine. When that doesn’t work, she now has something else she can offer patients.
“Inspire is a different way of treating sleep apnea. Patients who have tried CPAP in the past and couldn’t tolerate it, or something happened and they couldn’t get the benefits of using CPAP for all night, every night to treat their sleep apnea, now we have other options,” said Waters.
Inspire is smaller than the palm of your hand. It’s an FDA-approved device that fights sleep apnea on the inside of the body — not the outside like CPAP.
“It’s opened the door to bringing those patients back to keep talking about their health and it’s a new treatment option to get them the benefits of treating their significant sleep apnea,” said Waters.
The device is implanted through surgery in the patient’s chest and activated with a remote control.
“It uses the tongue muscle and the nerve that goes to the tongue muscle, which is the hypoglossal nerve. It is a nerve stimulator device,” said Waters.
“All it feels like is trying to stick your tongue out with your mouth closed. It just expands this down here. It’s kind of like if you stretch in the morning and your leg might cramp very slightly. That’s all it is. It’s a very mild stimulus,” said Cole.
Not deterred by the invasiveness of surgery, Cole jumped at the chance to tackle her sleep apnea without a CPAP. She had Inspire implanted in June of 2020.
“That first night I slept six hours. I hadn’t done that in years and that wasn’t even at a full therapeutic level. They start you low and then you build it up over time and now I can sleep 6, 8, 9 hours and it’s wonderful sleep,” said Cole.
There’s a recovery period after surgery before doctors activate the device. Cole said she’s been sleeping like she hadn’t in years. She’s not the only one.
“It helps me sleep better. There’s no cold air blowing in my face or shoulders or back. There’s no loud fan on all night. And there’s no grotesque alien headgear,” said Mark Cole, Linda’s husband.
There are some qualifications for Inspire. Most major insurance companies are covering it.