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Jun 26, 2019

Taking the Fear Out of Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

Estimated reading time: 3-5 minutes

New innovations are changing the way people live with sleep apnea

By Dr. David White, Chief Medical Officer, Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care


Throughout the world, it’s estimated that at least 100 million people have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep-related breathing disorder that impacts the ability to breathe during sleep. It’s also estimated that 80% of all OSA patients remain undiagnosed [1]. This statistic is alarmingly high, especially considering the adverse consequences associated with this common condition. If left untreated, OSA can lead to serious health problems – and in some cases, it may even be fatal.  


Among my peers in the sleep community, we’re shocked that the number of undiagnosed OSA patients has consistently remained so high. When thinking about the circumstances that perpetuate this failure to diagnose, one thing always comes to mind: fear. Fear not just of the sleep apnea diagnosis itself, but of the treatment options available. Will the machine be loud? Will my mask scare my children? Will I have to lug around a medical device when I travel? After an initial OSA diagnosis, there are a million questions that go through patients’ minds, but physicians can work with their patients to determine the best treatment plan for both their condition and their lifestyle. Unfortunately, some OSA sufferers may not seek diagnosis because they fear what comes next, and even worse, some OSA patients do not adhere to their prescribed plans even after they’ve been diagnosed. 

But sleep apnea therapy has changed

What many people don’t realize is that sleep apnea therapy has come a long way over the past several decades. Now, there are multiple solutions that have been uniquely designed using a patient-centric approach – improving comfort, ease of use and mobility for sleep apnea patients. These updates have been made to help ensure that those living with sleep apnea stay adherent to their treatment plans.  


Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has been the gold standard of sleep therapy treatment for many years. But even with new innovations offering more freedom and comfort for CPAP users, sometimes the therapy doesn’t fit in with a patient’s lifestyle. If these patients are living with positional OSA, there is new hope for successful, sustainable treatment through the advent of positional therapy devices. 


A subset of OSA, patients with positional OSA primarily experience disruptions in breathing when sleeping on their backs. As an alternative method to CPAP therapy, positional therapy wearables like Philips’ NightBalance solution work by encouraging users to remain off their back with gentle vibrations. As one of the most non-invasive forms of sleep apnea therapy, positional therapy devices have demonstrated high short-term adherence rates (75% to 95%) and that they are effective in reducing Apnea–Hypopnea Index (AHI), an indicator of the severity of a patient’s OSA [2,3,4,5].


Consumer-centric innovation is changing the way patients live with sleep apnea. Now, people suffering from this chronic condition no longer have to fear diagnosis or treatment plans – they can move forward on a path to living more healthy and restful lives. 


For more information on available sleep apnea therapies, visit



[2] Long-term effectiveness and compliance of positional therapy with the Sleep Position Trainer in the treatment of positional obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. van Maanen JP, de Vries N. SLEEP 2014;37(7):1209-1215.

[3] Benoist, L., de Ruiter, M., de Lange, J., & De Vries, N. (2017). A randomized, controlled trial of positional therapy versus oral appliance therapy for position-dependent sleep apnea. Sleep medicine, 34, 109-117

[4] De Ruiter, M. H., Benoist, L. B., De Vries, N., & de Lange, J. (2018). Durability of treatment effects of the Sleep Position Trainer versus oral appliance therapy in positional OSA: 12-month follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Sleep and Breathing, 22(2), 441-450.

[5] Eijsvogel, M. M., Ubbink, R., Dekker, J., Oppersma, E., de Jongh, F. H., van der Palen, J., & Brusse-Keizer, M. G. (2015). Sleep position trainer versus tennis ball technique in positional obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Journal of clinical sleep medicine, 11(02), 139-147.

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Kathy O'Reilly

Kathy O'Reilly

Philips Global Press Office

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Meghan Cole

Meghan Cole

Interim Global Public Relations Manager
Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care

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