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How Does the Winx Sleep Therapy System Treat Sleep Apnea?

Oral Pressure Therapy Works By Applying Vacuum to Tongue, Soft Palate

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Updated October 08, 2012

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Sleep apnea is a common condition but the most common treatment, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), is not for everyone. If you have struggled to tolerate CPAP, you may be seeking alternative treatment options. There are a variety of possible therapies to consider, and one of them is the Winx Sleep Therapy System. What is Winx therapy? How does Winx treat sleep apnea? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of using Winx? If you are interested in trying it, how do you obtain it? Let’s learn more about this novel treatment for sleep apnea and how it might help you to sleep better.

What Is Winx Therapy?

The Winx Sleep Therapy System is a novel treatment for sleep apnea that includes a mouthpiece, tubing, and small console. It is unique in that it works via oral pressure therapy which consists of a gentle vacuum that is applied to the soft palate and tongue. This suction pulls these tissues forward, relieving obstruction of the upper airway that often causes sleep apnea.

The mouthpiece used in the treatment is soft and flexible. It sits in the mouth much like a retainer or mouth guard. It is specially sized for each person. There is no external mask or headgear such as would be used with CPAP. The mouthpiece connects to a long, slim tube that extends to the console. The console is remarkably small and unobtrusive. Once the mouthpiece is in place and the machine is turned on, it quietly generates the vacuum that is delivered through the mouthpiece.

How Does Winx Therapy Help Treat Sleep Apnea?

Winx is a novel therapy compared to other treatments that are available. It works via a mechanism called oral pressure therapy. This is a gentle vacuum that pulls the soft palate and tongue forward. How does this treat sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway collapses during sleep. Most often this is due to the soft tissues at the back of the mouth and throat falling back and closing off the passageway for air. A large tongue, as seen in a condition called macroglossia, may predispose for this occurrence. In addition, excessive tissue at the back of the mouth, including enlarged tonsils, may also contribute. By bringing these tissues forward with suction, the Winx system can relieve the obstruction that they may otherwise cause. The tongue is stabilized, the size of the airway increases, and breathing improves.

Research has shown that it can be an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea at all degrees of severity. In clinical trials, the apnea hypopnea index (AHI) was reduced from 28.0 to 5.3. This means that the sleep apnea severity went from the high moderate to low mild range. People with an AHI of less than 5 are considered to be normal. Most people could use it 6 hours on average on 87.5% of nights, suggesting an acceptable level of compliance.

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Winx?

For those who are familiar with CPAP, the Winx system may seem like an attractive option. Many of the major compliance issues related to CPAP can be avoided. It requires no bulky mask or restraining headgear without a risk of pressure sores or skin rashes. The tube is lighter and less likely to become an impediment to sleep, allowing you to change positions easily. The mouthpiece is small and fitted to maximize comfort. The console is quiet and portable, minimizing the disruption to your sleep environment and allowing ease in traveling. It is simple to use, clean, and maintain. There is no pressurized air with the associated problems of nasal congestion, leaks, and dryness. It may also be preferred to overcome issues related to intimacy and claustrophobia. Moreover, the machine is able to track usage data which can guide your treatment.

Although the Winx system may be an attractive option, it may not be for everyone. It has been evaluated with clinical research and is approved for the treatment of mild, moderate, and severe obstructive sleep apnea. It is not an effective treatment for central sleep apnea. It is required that you be able to breathe through your nose without mouth breathing to use it safely. If you have underlying lung disease, loose teeth, or advanced periodontal (gum) disease, you should not use Winx. It is approved for use by adults only. One unattractive drawback is that is also sucks saliva (or spit) into a canister that must be emptied in the morning.

How to Obtain the Winx Therapy System

If you wish to read more about the Winx Therapy system, you can check out the information from its manufacturer, Apnicure. This treatment is available in select locations currently and will become widely available in the United States in 2013. It will not be available internationally until late in 2013. If you are interested in trying the Winx system, it is available only by prescription and you will have to visit with a physician or sleep specialist. Your provider can determine if it is an appropriate treatment for you. Once you begin treatment, you should follow closely to ensure that the therapy has effectively improved your sleep apnea.

Sources:

Malhotra, A et al. "Oral Pressure Therapy Improves Obstructive Sleep Apnea." Am J Respir Crit Care Med 185;2012:A6810.

Schwab, R et al. "Mechanism of Action of a Novel Device Using Oral Pressure Therapy (OPT) for the Treatment of OSA." Am J Respir Crit Care Med 185;2012:A6811.

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