A solution for sleep apnoea could be right under your nose


Tuesday, 09 April, 2024

A solution for sleep apnoea could be right under your nose

Scientists from Flinders University have discovered that a bedtime nasal spray has the potential to reduce the severity of sleep apnoea, offering hope to millions of people around the world affected by this common and debilitating chronic respiratory condition. Their study has been published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

“Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a sleep disorder where the muscles in the back of the throat relax and the upper airway narrows or collapses, restricting oxygen intake and causing people to wake repeatedly throughout the night,” said Professor Danny Eckert, from the Flinders College of Medicine and Public Health.

“Treatment options are limited and, while continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are a proven treatment for OSA, around 50% of people struggle to tolerate them.”

The aim of the new study was to determine the effects of a new potassium channel blocker nasal spray on OSA severity. As explained by lead author Dr Amal Osman, “Potassium channel blockers are a class of drugs that block the potassium channel in the central nervous system.

“When used in a nasal spray, the blockers have the potential to increase the activity of the muscles that keep the upper airway open and reduce the likelihood of the throat collapsing during sleep.”

Using a randomised, blind trial, 10 people with OSA were given the potassium blocker nasal spray, a placebo nasal spray, or the potassium nasal spray in combination with restricted ‘nasal only’ breathing. Seven out of the 10 people responded to the potassium channel blocker nasal spray, showing a reduction in the frequency of upper airway collapsing episodes during sleep and lower blood pressure the next morning. The use of the spray with restricted breathing did not improve quality of sleep in this trial.

“What we have discovered is that the nasal spray application of the potassium channel blocker that we tested is safe, well tolerated,” Osman said. “Those who had a physiological improvement in their airway function during sleep also had between 25–45% reductions in markers of their OSA severity, including improved oxygen levels as well as a reduction in their blood pressure the next day.”

“These insights provide a potential pathway for development of new therapeutic solutions for those people with OSA who are unable to tolerate CPAP machines and/or upper airway surgery, and those with a desire for alternatives to existing therapies,” Eckert added.

“Right now there are no approved drugs for treating OSA, but through these findings and future research we are getting closer to developing new and effective drugs that are safe and easy to use.”

Image credit: iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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