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Friday, 18 June, 1999, 00:33 GMT
Step forward in snore war
sleepy boy 300
Apnoea sufferers can be dangerously sleepy during the day
Snore-free sleep could be closer for about 100,000 UK men suffering from a potentially dangerous breathing disorder.

Research published in the British Medical Journal is the first to look into therapies for obstructive sleep apnoea, and concludes that wearing a mask during the night can help.

And experts say its findings will be valuable in persuading health authorities to meet the cost of the treatment.

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a disorder mainly affecting men in which airflow from the nose and mouth to the lungs is restricted during sleep.

As well as disturbing partners with heavy snoring, the problem disrupts normal sleep and leads to excessive daytime sleepiness - which can lead to problems at work, and an increased risk of accidents.

Mask lets air flow

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) says the benefits of "nasal continuous positive airway pressure", which uses a mask to force the airway open during the night, have been known to respiratory experts for years.

But without firm scientific evidence, many health authorities have been unwilling to pay for the masks for patients.

The Lancet study, carried out by researchers in Oxford, compared more than 50 men with severe sleep apnoea and used a mask with a similar number who had no treatment.

"Significant improvement"

The group that had the mask showed a "significant improvement in self-reported health", reporting less daytime sleepiness.

It is thought that the mask could be of benefit even to men with only minor sleep apnoea.

Dr Mike Pearson, Public Education Chairman of the BTS, said the estimated 100,000 sleep apnoea sufferers in the UK had been shortchanged in the past.

He said: "For too long many patients with sleep apnoea and heavy snoring ahve been victimised - often denied the most effective treatment for their condition.

"Respiratory physicians have known for a decade that CPAP works in sleep apnoea patients - but some major reviews of the evidence have failed to recognise this.

"The situation has caused real problems for specialists prescribing treatment for patients because health authorities have been reluctant to pay.

"We call on the Department of Health to issue new advice to all health authorities and doctors - recommending this key treatment."

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See also:

18 Mar 99 | Health
Sleep disorder causes car crashes
23 Mar 99 | Health
Scientists solve snoring riddle
21 Apr 99 | Health
Surgeon hails snoring cure
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