Sleep apnea, a potentially fatal condition if left untreated, is prevalent in as many as many as 18 million Americans, however men are more likely to suffer from it. Nearly 15% of men living in the U.S. suffer from sleep apnea, compared to a mere 5% of women.
Apneas are commonly referred to as periods when sleep apnea sufferers stop breathing — and therefore stop receiving oxygen — due to a blockage in the back of the throat. This often causes the sufferer to choke or gasp for air throughout the time they’re asleep. Over time, the health consequences of untreated sleep apnea can be as severe as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Often, sufferers are completely unaware they have it.
Kristen Balderston’s family told her she snored for several years. “I didn’t believe them,” she admitted, but a sleep apnea test proved otherwise. “I not only had sleep apnea,” says Kristen, “I had serious sleep apnea.”
In order to prevent developing further complications, sleep apnea sufferers must often wear masks attached to sleep apnea machines that provide a continuous supply of air to the back of the throat while they sleep. This keeps the airways open and prevents apneas from occurring. While this kind of treatment is crucial, it can also be awkward, frustrating and in some cases downright annoying. In fact, many sufferers stop wearing them overtime.
“It’s just very clumsy,” Balderston explained, “So if you want to sleep on our side you’ve got this tubing that gets in the way.”
Thanks to a Burlington-based company however, all that might change.
Airing created a small, lightweight device free of cords and tubes. The device is battery-powered, disposable, and fitted with hundreds of powerful “micro-blowers” that supply air.
“While they’re very, very small, there are a lot of them,” explained Stephen Marsh, the president and co-founder of Airing. “When they operate repeatedly many thousand times a second, it blows enough air to treat sleep apnea.”
Using the popular crowdfunding website Indiegogo, Airing hope to raise enough money to further develop the prototype. So far they have been successful in raising over $725,000 but still need more.
If produced en masse the device has the potential to revolutionize sleep apnea treatments, allowing patients to experience the full benefits of sleep apnea machines without the discomfort or hassle.