What Is Inspire for Sleep Apnea — Top Questions Answered

David Cuthbertson, MD

inspire sleep

A continuous positive airway pressure machine (more commonly known as a CPAP machine) can seem like a dream come true at first. No more will you have to deal with the restless nights, the lack of REM sleep, and the daytime sleepiness.

But sometimes your CPAP dream can turn into a nightmare.

Your mask doesn’t fit right. The air leaks. It dries out your eyes. You’re uncomfortable. The machine is noisy, and the mask leaves grooves on your face. The air blows into your stomach, making you bloated. It dries out your mouth, so you drink more at night and have to get up to use the restroom.

On top of all that, your partner isn’t sleeping well now either because of your tossing, turning and fidgeting with this noisy machine!

How can you win the battle of the mask while still getting the sleep you need? Enter Inspire, the maskless solution for sleep apnea.

What Happens in the Body with Sleep Apnea?

There are two categories of sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The vast majority of sleep apnea cases are classified as obstructive sleep apnea. The body tries to breathe, but — as the name suggests — air can’t get to the lungs because of an obstruction in the airway. Usually, the obstruction involves the tonsils, the tongue or the soft palate (the roof of the back of the mouth) relaxing enough to block the back of the throat.

Another cause of obstructive sleep apnea is sometimes excess body weight that collapses the airway during sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea

A smaller number of people have central sleep apnea. This is caused by a problem with communication between the brain and the body. The brain simply fails to trigger the body to take a breath. Central sleep apnea is much less common than obstructive sleep apnea.

inspire sleep

Why Is Sleep Apnea a Problem?

You might be asking, “So what if I snore a little? Is it actually dangerous to my health?”

The answer is, it depends. A little bit of snoring can be harmless, but true sleep apnea is very dangerous. In the short term, untreated sleep apnea can cause inadequate sleep, decreased productivity, daytime fatigue, and poor performance at work.

It can even affect your driving. People with untreated sleep apnea are six times more likely to be involved in a car crash! When you multiply that by more than 20 million Americans affected by sleep apnea, suddenly the roads look a lot more dangerous.

The long-term effects of untreated sleep apnea are even more disturbing.

The word “apnea” means “lack of breath.” Sleep apnea restricts the flow of oxygen to every organ in the body. And since oxygen is vital to the functioning of all these organs, the stakes are high. Over time, untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health concerns, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Strokes
  • Diabetes
  • Memory problems
  • Weight gain

People with untreated sleep apnea also have higher levels of pulmonary hypertension, meaning their lungs undergo significant stress. These people are almost twice as likely as others to experience a stroke or heart attack, and four times as likely to deal with high blood pressure.

What Is Inspire for Sleep Apnea?

Inspire is a maskless alternative for people who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine.

Inspire works a lot like a pacemaker, but for your tongue. Unlike pacemakers, which have been safely implanted for decades, Inspire doesn’t connect to your heart. Instead, after your doctor implants the device, a sensor in your chest detects when you’re trying to take a breath, and Inspire sends a small electrical signal to the nerve that controls your tongue. This very gently tells your tongue to move out of the way, leaving your airway clear for every breath.

So where a CPAP machine pushes air into your nose and mouth continually, Inspire uses your own nerves and muscles to pull in a breath.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Inspire for Sleep Apnea?

If you’re considering a maskless alternative to CPAP, you’re likely wondering about the pros and cons of Inspire for sleep apnea.

The Pros

Inspire is much more portable than a CPAP since it’s housed inside your body! There are no tubes, masks, hoses or plugs to worry about.

Inspire doesn’t cause dry eyes and mouth, bloating or marks on the face. Inspire comes with a remote control for you to turn it on at bedtime, and you can set it to turn off at a predetermined waking time. You can also turn it off manually when you wake up in the morning.

The Cons

Since Inspire is a surgery, it comes with the risks that any surgical procedure involves. This means that though Inspire is simple to use after surgery, it is more invasive than a CPAP machine.

Additionally, any time a foreign object is implanted in the body, it carries some risk of infection. Inspire is no different.

The battery in Inspire lasts about 11 years, and then needs to be replaced. All the other parts of Inspire can remain in the body, but the pacemaker part of the device needs to be changed out about once per decade. This procedure is much simpler than the initial surgery.

Even though Inspire is FDA-approved, it is not approved for an MRI of the chest or abdomen. It is approved for an MRI of the arms or legs.

Also, if you work near an arc welding unit, the magnetic field it produces can alter the settings of your Inspire device.

Inspire is also not FDA-approved for SCUBA diving deeper than 25 meters (about 82 feet).

Is Inspire Right for Me?

If you’re interested in giving Inspire a try, you’ll need a sleep study to determine the severity and type of your sleep apnea. An ENT doctor can perform a sleep endoscopy to evaluate you while you sleep. This allows the doctor to look at the airway collapse pattern and make sure it could benefit from Inspire.

Inspire also has weight restrictions, which keep the surgery safe. Patients must have a BMI lower than either 32 or 35.

If you’re considering Inspire, ENT Associates of Lubbock has the experience and expertise you’re looking for. Book a consultation today to see if Inspire could be the maskless CPAP alternative you’ve been looking for.


Disclaimer: The content on this website is written and/or reviewed by a qualified medical doctor and great care is taken to provide accurate general information. However, it is for informational purposes only and is not to be taken as a substitute for medical advice from your own physician who is familiar with the details of your medical history. Always consult your doctor regarding health concerns before deciding any course of medical action.