Saturday, May 25

Small Business Takes On Sleep Apnea

Could a small business and a crowdfunding campaign be the right combination to build a better solution for people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)? Entrepreneur Stephen Marsh thinks so.

“Apnea” is taken from the Greek for “without breath,” and OSA refers to a condition in which a person involuntarily stops breathing while asleep because the soft tissue at the back of the threat collapses in and blocks the airway. The brain eventually wakes the person, but numerous events throughout the night make it nearly impossible to get rest that isn’t fragmented or low in quality.

Sleep apnea is thought to affect around 18 million Americans, making it as common as diabetes, according to the American Sleep Apnea Foundation.

Currently, one of the most common options for treating OSA is using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine each night. These CPAP machines are made up of three parts: an air pump, a mask that covers the nose and mouth, and a tube that links them. Throughout the night, the pump collects and pressurizes air from the room and gently blows it into the throat. That pressure then keeps the throat open, allowing someone with sleep apnea to sleep through the night.

When these machines were first introduced, they were hailed as a breakthrough. But Marsh thinks he and his team can do better, and has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to fund an invention called an Airing (plural Airings), a device described as “the first hoseless, maskless, micro-CPAP.”

The device uses micro-blowers –intended originally for keeping the temperature down in computer microchips — and is battery-powered, so users would simply insert the nose buds into their nostrils, theoretically eliminating snoring as well as treating OSA.

Each Airing would be used for only a single night and then recycled.

By the end of the original campaign on July 15, it was 896% funded. As of Aug. 7, it had raised $999,142. The campaign is still open, but even those who donate shouldn’t expect to be using Airings immediately: the company has yet to gain FDA approval and doesn’t plan to make any shipments until mid-2017.

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