Sleep Apnea

UTSA

Sleep apnea is a common breathing problem plaguing an estimated 22 million Americans. Some of those cases are so severe, patients have to sleep with a bulky device to help them breathe normally during the night. Engineers at the University of Texas at San Antonio are trying to come up with a more user-friendly device.

Joseph Barrios knows firsthand how sleep apnea can affect your life."It’s a terrible feeling," Barrios said. "You’re literally suffocating and you wake up just (breathing hard). I was constantly waking up due to snoring, breathlessness at night. And that’s what led to the CPAP prescription."

Soon after many people fall asleep, they have trouble breathing. Their upper airway constricts and chokes them. They wake, startled, take a deep breath, and fall back to sleep. Then it happens again and again and again.

This condition, obstructive sleep apnea, affects about a fifth of American adults and triples the risk for cardiovascular disease. How exactly has been unclear.