What Is Inspire for Sleep Apnea?

Inspire causes the tongue to move forward when breathing, thus opening the upper airway and providing a more restful night’s sleep.

Most people with sleep apnea have it because when they go to sleep, the muscles in their throat relax and their tongue falls back, blocking their airway. This makes them unable to breathe because the air can’t get through their throat into their lungs.

Inspire is a newer, FDA-approved treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It causes the tongue to move forward while asleep, thus reopening the airway and giving a good night’s sleep. It works with the person’s natural breathing process.

Traditional Therapies for Sleep Apnea

The main traditional therapy for sleep apnea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). It’s been in use for about thirty years, and it works by forcing air past the relaxed tongue and into the lungs via a CPAP machine and equipment. These deliver the humidified, pressurized air through a mask to hold your throat open.

CPAP can only be purchased by prescription.

How Inspire Works

The tongue has nerve branches that retract the tongue and branches that protrude the tongue. Inspire uses a unilateral hypoglossal nerve implant – an electrode – to stimulate the motor nerve to the branches that protrude the tongue.

Inspire is like a pacemaker for your tongue while you sleep. Its detects when you are about to draw a breath, and its goal is to stop your tongue from blocking your throat by using the muscles of your tongue to move your tongue forward.

The electrode works in conjunction with a sensor on the chest that can mark every breath, and as you initiate that breath, the electrode makes your tongue stiffen up and move forward just a little bit. That way, the space behind your tongue stays open.

Once in bed and about to go asleep, turn on the device with a remote, and it will start working after a set amount of time has passed. You program in how long it usually takes you to fall asleep, so that’s when the timer will start. Inspire is programmable to the patient’s preference. So, for example, if you go to sleep in about 15 minutes, it will start the therapy 15 minutes from the time you hit On.

CPAP not helping your sleep apnea? Schedule a consultation with one of East Tennessee’s best ENT doctors.

Benefits of Using Inspire Instead of a CPAP Machine

The highlights of Inspire are that:

  • You don’t have to wear a mask and attached hose at night while you sleep.
  • It’s a much easier piece of equipment to travel with.
  • 94% of Inspire patients prefer it to using a CPAP machine.
  • 79% of users found that the number of their sleep apnea events lessened considerably.
  • Adverse effects are uncommon.
  • It works well for people with moderate to severe sleep apnea.

Inspire is most often prescribed for people who have not been adequately helped by CPAP therapy.

Do You Qualify for Inspire Sleep Apnea Treatment?

Candidates must be over 18 and not in the obese weight category to qualify for treatment. Also, insurance will not cover it unless CPAP has not helped you adequately. However, most insurance companies cover the procedure and treatment, including Medicare and VA health plans.

You must have a professional diagnosis for obstructive sleep apnea that was done with a sleep study. Inspire will not treat central sleep apnea (CSA), a rare form of sleep apnea caused by the brain inadequately controlling breathing during sleep.

Also, insurance companies usually require a recent sleep study that was done in the last two years if they are going to approve your Inspire therapy.

If you’d like to see if you are a candidate for Inspire, schedule a consultation, and we’ll see what’s possible.

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Jaron Densky, M.D.

Jaron is a native of Morristown, TN and is honored to serve as an otolaryngologist in his home state. He is a lifelong Tennessee Volunteer and has deep roots in the East Tennessee region. He provides expert-level comprehensive ENT care to the community and has a specific interest in treating patients with obstructive sleep apnea. He appreciates the importance of listening and tailoring a care plan to each patient’s particular needs. He believes that optimal treatment is delivered when the provider and patient are making decisions together. His extracurricular activities include spending time with his wife and daughter, reading, mountain biking, cycling, and running.

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