A kettle-like device that uses breathing exercises to strengthen muscles in the neck and chest may banish heavy snoring.
The electric ‘kettle’ has a valve in the spout that partially blocks airflow when a patient blows into it for ten or 15 seconds at a time.
This makes the muscles in the chest and throat work harder to force breath into the kettle — gradually increasing their strength.
Tightening muscles in this way is thought to make it less likely that tissue in the throat will collapse during sleep — a trigger for snoring.
Now a clinical trial is under way at Turku University in Finland to see if using the £200 kettle, called WellO2, every day for three months will cure sleep apnoea — a snoring condition that affects almost four million adults in Britain, according to the Sleep Apnoea Trust.
Now a clinical trial is under way at Turku University in Finland to see if using the £200 kettle, called WellO2, every day for three months will cure sleep apnoea
Sleep apnoea occurs when the muscles in the airway, which naturally relax as we fall asleep, completely collapse; this shuts off breathing for at least ten seconds at a time.
Once the brain realises breathing has stopped, it sends out a signal for the airway muscles to contract again. This opens the airway and the person normally wakes with a jolt.
The cumulative effect is that sufferers — and their partners — feel exhausted during the day.
Sleep apnoea has also been shown to raise blood pressure and the threat of a stroke or heart attack because of reduced oxygen supply.
Treatment usually consists of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), where a mask is worn over the face during sleep. The mask is attached to a bedside machine that gently forces air into the airways to stop them collapsing.
But some people find the mask cumbersome and research suggests that nearly a third never use the device or abandon it within a few weeks.
Previous studies have found that strengthening the muscles of the upper airway can help to combat sleep apnoea.
One landmark investigation in 2005, by the University of Zurich in Switzerland, found that regularly playing the didgeridoo reduced snoring-related sleep interruptions and eased daytime drowsiness.
This was because getting a sound out of a didgeridoo requires considerable respiratory effort, toning up airway muscles in the process.
The WellO2 kettle, developed in Finland, could be a more convenient form of muscle training.
After boiling tap water in the device and leaving it to cool slightly for a few minutes — to avoid scalding the airways during inhalation — the user places their mouth over the plastic spout (which doesn’t get hot) and exhales slowly for ten to 15 seconds.
Sleep apnoea occurs when the muscles in the airway, which naturally relax as we fall asleep, completely collapse; this shuts off breathing for at least ten seconds at a time
The one-way valve inside the spout partly blocks the airflow, so muscles in the chest and neck must work harder to force air through.
A long, slow breath lasting ten to 15 seconds is then taken to inhale steam from the device — moisturising the airways and easing any congestion that might also contribute to sleep apnoea and snoring.
Tests have shown that using the kettle regularly can increase the strength of muscles in the pharynx, the breathing tube that connects the nose and mouth to the throat. During the new trial, 50 patients with sleep apnoea will use the kettle three times a day for two years. Researchers will be looking for a decline in night breathing interruptions and reduced day-time fatigue. Participants will attend a sleep clinic before and after the trial, where they will spend a night wired to a machine that carries out a polysomnogram — a test of their breathing, brain activity, heart rate and movement, to assess their sleep apnoea.
Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert and member of the British Sleep Society, said: ‘There is certainly evidence that strengthening the muscles of the upper airway can help reduce sleep apnoea — anything that does that is bound to be beneficial to a degree.
‘But don’t try this with your kitchen kettle at home — you could suffer serious burns.’
Eating a high-protein ‘caveman’ diet can stop heavy snoring in overweight women, reports a study by Umea University in Sweden.
Seventy overweight women (obesity is the biggest risk factor for sleep apnoea) were put on a low-fat diet or a diet of paleolithic foods — mainly lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds — for two years. The results, published in the International Journal of Obesity, showed weight loss in the caveman food groups averaged 7.2kg (15.8lb) — double that from the low-fat diet — and sleep apnoea symptoms fell by 60 per cent, while they barely changed in the low-fat group.
Invite a friend for dinner — eating alone can be bad for your health, suggests research published in the journal Menopause.
In a study involving almost 600 women aged 65 and over, scientists in Korea found that heart-related chest pain was twice as common in those who ate more than two meals alone each day, and they were at increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
One theory is that when eating alone, people tend to eat faster, which often leads to increased weight and raised blood pressure and blood fat levels, which can in turn raise the risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, the researchers said.
Invite a friend for dinner — eating alone can be bad for your health, suggests research published in the journal Menopause
Acid probe spots dental danger
A probe that measures acidity in the mouth may protect the teeth against decay.
The device, from the University of Washington in the U.S., shines an LED light on the teeth after they’ve been coated with a special dye.
It then measures how the light is reflected by dental plaque — high levels of corrosive acid in plaque can affect how light bounces back.
Patients can then be told to concentrate on brushing high-risk areas to reduce the risk of cavities.
It is hoped the information will also encourage patients to cut down on sugar, a key ingredient in acid formation.
Epilepsy drug to help treat Covid
A medication commonly used to treat epilepsy might help restore sense of smell in people recovering from Covid infection.
Researchers in the U.S. will give 50 patients varying doses of gabapentin, usually prescribed for epilepsy and nerve pain, or placebo capsules, for 14 weeks.
It is thought the drug may restore Covid-damaged nerve function by binding to damaged sections of nerves. Loss of smell is common in Covid and while it normally lasts a few weeks, some people take a year or more to recover.