NightLase. Sometimes sleep apnea sufferers struggle with the treatments they are prescribed to help them breathe while sleeping. CPAPs are the go-to for people with moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea—that’s when a person has an AHI of 15 or more. A CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, provides a continuous flow of air to help keep the airway open during sleep.
** an AHI of 15 or more is a combination of apnea events (stops breathing) and Hypopnea events (Oxygen saturation drops by 4% or more). The ratio is determined by a sleep study.
For some people, wearing the mask that supplies the air during sleep is such an uncomfortable experience that they don’t comply on a regular basis—low gag reflexes, noise, and claustrophobia are some of the reasons people cite for not wanting to wear the device, in spite of its benefits. In fact, compliance for people who actually use a CPAP ranges from 30 to 40 percent. A famous comedian once called the CPAP machine “a perfect birth control device.”
Of course, we offer an intraoral appliance for some cases of sleep apnea. Since these are much easier and less disruptive for others sleeping in the room, sleep apnea sufferers tend to use the intraoral appliance much more faithfully. These devices help the sufferer breathe because they open the airway by moving the lower jaw forward. That helps alleviate the cause of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a collapsed throat during sleep due to the tissues and tongue relaxing during sleep. But be careful not to fall for those over the counter or internet snoring appliances. They may worsen an underlying sleep apnea.
But now there’s another option that provides long-term relief for a collapsing airway. NightLase is a dental laser treatment made by Fotona, the world’s largest manufacturer of lasers, which is especially known for its medical lasers. Laser at the back of the throat? Don’t be alarmed. NightLase is not designed to cut tissue. It is non-ablative; it heats the tissue in the back of the throat, (i.e.: soft palate, tongue, etc.) to increase collagen production, which tightens the tissue.
You see, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by the airway at the back of the throat closing up during sleep when the body relaxes. The airway closes because the back of the throat has lost its collagen, a protein that gives skin its firm appearance and that the body naturally loses with aging. When the body relaxes, the tissue droops into the airway and blocks off breathing. That leads to the disruptions in breathing that are the hallmark of OSA. In addition, the airway is collapsible and we lose the reflexes to prevent this when we’re asleep.
NightLase works by heating up the tissue in the soft palate, tongue, and uvula at the back of the throat. That heat tightens the collagen, which lifts the drooping tissue and opens the airway. The bigger the airway opening, the easier it is to breathe.
There are some major plusses with NightLase: The treatment also stimulates the production of new collagen, it gives the patient relief during the daytime hours as well, and it keeps the airway open for up to a year or more.
The full treatment takes three sessions over a four-week period. Sessions are patient-specific, so the amount of time depends on the patient’s need, sensitivity level, and the amount of soft tissue being treated. Most patients report feeling only a bit of heat during treatment, or a mildly sore throat for a day or so after treatment. But more than 80 percent of patients report a better than 50 percent improvement of their overall sleep after two sessions. Most patients report the results last 12 to 18 months before additional treatment is needed.
If you or a loved one is looking for a longer-term solution for opening your airway to get a good night’s sleep, NightLase may be the solution for you.