How flight socks could banish noisy snoring: Researchers are looking into whether foot warmers designed to help stop blood clots could also help those who have sleep apnoea
- In sleep apnoea the airway muscles collapse which can shut off breathing
- The snoring-related condition affects almost four million people in the UK.
Socks normally worn to prevent blood clots during long-haul flights may also banish snoring.
A clinical trial involving 24 heavy snorers is under way in France to see if wearing the knee-length socks during the day and taking them off at bedtime reduces the number of night-time disturbances from sleep apnoea — the snoring-related condition thought to affect almost four million people in the UK.
It occurs when the muscles in the airway relax during sleep.
For most people this does not pose a problem, but in sleep apnoea it leads to a complete collapse which can temporarily shut off breathing. The snoring sound occurs as air vibrates against the soft tissue as it’s forced past.
Once the brain realises breathing has stopped, it sends out a signal for the airway muscles to contract again.
A clinical trial involving 24 heavy snorers is under way in France to see if wearing the knee-length socks during the day and taking them off at bedtime reduces the number of night-time disturbances from sleep apnoea (stock image)
The socks, which cost around £14 a pair, could help by reducing the amount of fluid that builds up in the lower legs during the day (stock image)
This opens the airway, often causing the sufferer to wake with a jolt. In mild sleep apnoea, this can happen about once every ten minutes. If it’s severe, it means sleep can be disturbed every couple of minutes.
The cumulative effect is that the sufferer feels exhausted the next day, lacks concentration and this raises their risk of accidents.
The standard treatment involves wearing a mask over the nose and mouth during sleep, which pumps air into the body.
Superdrug Decongestant Wipes (pack of 25, 99p) are infused with eucalyptus, tea tree and peppermint oils to help relieve feelings of congestion and keep skin moisturised.
Called continuous positive airway pressure, this increases the air pressure in the airway and keeps it open. But some people find the mask cumbersome, and research suggests nearly a third of patients never use the device, or abandon it within 12 to 15 months.
The socks, which cost around £14 a pair, could help by reducing the amount of fluid that builds up in the lower legs during the day.
Some small studies have found that, due to gravity, some of this fluid ‘shifts’ up to the neck area when someone is lying down in bed at night and that this can lead to sleep apnoea.
This accumulation of fluid around the neck (known as ‘rostral shift’) raises the risk of sleep apnoea because the muscles around the windpipe struggle to support the extra weight.
The socks compress the lower leg to stop the build-up of fluid in the first place.
A 2015 study in Canada found that when men with severe sleep apnoea wore compression socks every day for two weeks, their night-time awakenings were halved. The fluid build-up around their necks was also significantly reduced.
Now a year-long trial, which began last September and is taking place at Pitie-Salpetriere University Hospital in Paris, is testing the use of flight socks in 24 men with severe sleep apnoea — they will wear them daily for a month, followed by a month without them. The researchers say they hope to repeat the earlier Canadian findings.
Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert, said although the flight sock therapy looks promising, the evidence so far suggests it only reduces the severity of sleep apnoea, rather than getting rid of it altogether.
‘This still means the patient suffers daytime sleepiness — treatment should be about reducing it to as close to zero as possible,’ he said.
- Wearing an eye mask during sleep could boost your memory and alertness next day, according to a study by Cardiff University. More than 100 people underwent learning and memory tests after a week of sleeping with a mask on, followed by a week without one. The results, published in December in the journal Sleep, showed that the participants scored better after wearing the mask. Scientists think blocking out light at night improves sleep quality (by reducing disturbance from light), which in turn helps brain function during waking hours.
New device may correct glue ear
Scientists have developed a hand-held device that treats glue ear without the need for surgery and a general anaesthetic. The condition affects one in five children and occurs when sticky fluid builds up in the middle ear, often after an infection. This can reduce hearing and affect development.
The condition affects one in five children and occurs when sticky fluid builds up in the middle ear, often after an infection (stock image)
Some cases require surgery under general anaesthetic to insert a tube — a grommet — into the ear drum to release the build-up of fluid and ventilate the ear (the grommet falls out months later).
Using a local anaesthetic, the Hummingbird Tympanostomy Tube System makes an incision into the eardrum and inserts the grommet with a single pull on a lever. It’s being trialled in the U.S.
Stem cells ease creaking knees
An injection of stem cells into the knee cuts pain and improves movement in patients with osteoarthritis, according to a new study published in Stem Cells International.
Overall symptoms improved by more than a third, and pain levels went down by nearly 50 per cent over six weeks (stock image)
Doctors injected 262 knees with stem cells taken from patients’ own bone marrow.
Their knee function almost doubled after treatment.
Overall symptoms improved by more than a third, and pain levels went down by nearly 50 per cent over six weeks.
‘Patients showed significant reductions in pain scores,’ said doctors at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, U.S..
Beetroot to tackle long Covid
Twenty people with long Covid will have a daily glass of beetroot juice for a fortnight to see if it improves their muscle strength and fatigue.
The juice is high in nitrates, compounds that break down into nitric oxide in the body, helping relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow — in turn, improving oxygen supply to the muscles. This may help combat fatigue, one of the main symptoms of long Covid. A control group will have a daily drink of the same volume (210ml), but which doesn’t contain nitrates.
During the trial, at the University of Pittsburgh, the participants will also undergo physical therapy three times a week to monitor any change in their symptoms.
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