Losing sleep?


Hands up, all of you out there who snore or have a partner that snores and irritates the heck out of you!
German doctor Dr Winfried Toussaint has severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) but thankfully, doesn't have a snoring problem.

"I found out that I had this sleep disorder while using a new equipment to test for sleep apnea in 2005," he says.
The disorder causes people to stop breathing for 10 to 60 seconds at a time while they are sleeping and sometimes, it can happen up to 400 times a night! Potentially life-threatening, at worst, it can lead to stroke, heart attack and death.

"About 90% of sleep apnea is obstructive, caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep," said Toussalnr, during a recent visit to Malaysia.
"Waking up feeling exhausted or feeling exhausted or feeling unusually lethargic duringthe day is a sign of sleep apnea.

Sufferers are often diagnosed as depressed when they are actually exhausted. Most aon't even know they have sleep apnea."

Toussaint, 57, invented the SomnoGuard, a mandibular advancement device to reduce snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, before discovering that he, too, had sleep apnea. He uses the SomnoGuard AP for a good night's sleep, without worrying about breathing arrests while sleeping.

The lean, athletic-looking Toussaint, hails from Bensheim, an hour's drive from Frankfurt, and has a doctorate in pharmacognosy (the study of medicine derived from natural sources) from Hamburg University in Germany.
He is also CEO of Tomed Dr Toussaint GmbH, which develops and distributes medical products and devices for sleep disorders as well as gynaecological products. His company serves leading international pharmaceutical companies and markets nasal dilators (invented by a Swedish ENT specialist). It also developed cleaning gels for SomnoGuard and dentures, and storage boxes for cleaning these appliances.

Toussaint has 20 years' experience in comprehensive business development and leadership in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Coming from the pharmaceutical industry with a marketing background in immunology and cardiovascular diseases, he found that the young discipline of sleep medicine offered an interesting niche market for mandibular advancement devices. He decided to start his own projects in that segment, mainly focusing on prefabricated oral appliances. He took two years to develop the first-generation SomnoGuard. As the mandibular device made of both soft plastic and hard plastic, his biggest challenge was getting the two types of plastic to stick together without using glue. Eventually, he developed the technology for doing so and subsequently, he developed the more sophisticated AP Pro model. Currently, he's working on the fourth-generation SomnoGuard.

Toussaint added: "Mandibular advancement appliances (or oral devices) are gaining importance as treatment options to nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (n-CPAP) in the treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea."

He ventured into prefabricated 0ral appliances as "a cheaper alternative for people with snoring and obstructive sleep apnea." Many patients were unhappy about n-CPAP, the most commonly used treatment for OSA, and extremely expensive custom made oral devices.

SomnoGuard 2.0 was entered the world market at the end of 2000; the second generation model, the SomnoGuard AE was launched in Malaysia in 2007. They are now available in 30 countries including Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia.

The device, which resembles a set of dentures, is placed in the mouth before one goes to sleep, to reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Made of thermoplastic, it moves the lower jaw slightly forward thereby widening the upper airway. As a result, the sleeping person is able to breathe more easily without snoring.

Research shows that more than 68% of the obstructive sleep apnea patients can be cured or substantially improved.
Panmedic Sdn Bhd is the distributor of SomnoGuard in Malaysia and Singapore. Its managing director Yap Ming Tian, a snorer, had obstructive sleep apnea until he was introduced to SomnoGuard. Finding it useful, he decided to bring it into the Malaysian market.

According to Yap, factors like a small jaw, obesity, sinusitis, smoking, alcohol, flabby soft palate, flabby soft uvula, enlarged tongue, tranquilisers and sleeping pills can aggravate snoring.

"SomnoGuard AP allows lateral movement of jaws during sleep (unlike the first generation Somnoguard 2.0). It has an average lifespan of two years. At RM780, it costs about RM1 a night," said Yap.

The prefabricated device can be remoulded many times and it takes about 10 minutes to fit by first-time users. Very small advancement of up to 12 mm of the lower jaw can be made easily by adjusting a special stainless steel screw on the device. A person with blocked nose can also use SomnoGuard AE but not the first generation model.

Made of flexible material, Somnoguard can be fitted by the user or by a physician (general practitioner, sleep specialist, dentist or ENT specialist). The fitting involves boiling the mouldable thermoplastic, cooling it and inserting it into the mouth for the correct bite and fit. Panmedic offers free fitting of the device for its customers.

"It fits different jaw sizes and can be used by people with some missing teeth. The device is a convenient, economical, safe and effective treatment for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea," said Toussaint.

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