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Sleep Disord. 2011;2011:596879. doi: 10.1155/2011/596879. Epub 2011 Apr 5.

Role of sensory stimulation in amelioration of obstructive sleep apnea.

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Sleep Disorders Group, EEE, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne, ICT Building, 3rd Floor, Room no. 344, 111 Barry Street, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), characterized by recurrent upper airway (UA) collapse during sleep, is associated with significant morbidity and disorders. Polysomnogram is employed in the evaluation of OSA and apnea-hypopnea number per hour reflects severity. For normal breathing, it is essential that the collapsible UA is patent. However, obstruction of the UA is quite common in adults and infants. Normally, important reflex mechanisms defend against the UA collapse. The muscle activity of UA dilators, including the genioglossus, tensor palatini (TP), and pharyngeal constrictors, is due to the integrated mechanism of afferent sensory input → to motor function. Snoring is harsh breathing to prevent UA obstruction. Unfortunately, snoring vibrations, pharyngeal suction collapse, negative pressure, and hypoxia cause pathological perturbations including dysfunctional UA afferent sensory activity. The current paper posits that peripheral sensory stimulation paradigm, which has been shown to be efficacious in improving several neurological conditions, could be an important therapeutic strategy in OSA also.

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