LONDON (Dispatches) -- A night time face mask can improve energy levels and vitality in people who suffer from the condition sleep apnea, which is associated with snoring and breathing problems at night.
The research, conducted at 11 NHS sleep centres across the UK including the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, is one of the first to investigate the use of the treatment for mild cases of sleep apnea. The mask -- called a CPAP machine -- is currently only recommended for people whose sleep apnea is moderate to severe.
Sleep apnea affects over one billion adults globally, and causes the airways to become too narrow during sleep, causing people to briefly stop breathing many times throughout the night. It can also trigger loud snoring, and cause frequent awakening from sleep, and subsequent daytime sleepiness.
Severe cases of sleep apnea are thought to affect up to 1.5 million in the UK, with some estimates suggesting up to eight million people in the UK may have a mild form of the condition.
One treatment is a mask that fits over the nose or mouth called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which gently pushes air into the mouth and throat, keeping the airways open.
Although previous trials have found a CPAP machine to improve symptoms of moderate to severe cases of the condition, this is the first large trial to find that mild cases of sleep apnea can also be treated with this technology.
Mary Morrell, Professor of Sleep and Respiratory Physiology at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial, and lead author of the research, said: "We are seeing increasing cases of sleep apnea, and in a wide range of patients. Although the condition was previously thought to mainly affect overweight men, we now know it also strikes post-menopausal women, the elderly, and even children.”