AFR Article – Sleeping beauty: ApneaSeal aims to emulate ResMed

After more than two decades with global giant ResMed as head of technology, Phil Kwok turned his innovation nous to local medical technology company ApneaSeal, which is behind a personalised mask used to treat sleep apnoea.

While Mr Kwok does not expect the company to be profitable for another 12 months after launching its first product a month ago, its 3D-printing technology had already snared interest from global players, including the dual-listed ResMed.

Mr Kwok has three decades of experience in the sleep apnoea and respiratory devices fields and was one of the early staffers at ResMed. He is an inventor or co-inventor in over 1400 patent cases.

He believes ApneaSeal’s mask will be a global product, and he already has sights on filing with the US Food and Drug Administration next year.

“We have always thought about this product being a global product,” he said. “We operate under the mantra, ‘think globally, act locally’.

“I was at ResMed when it was smaller than where this company is now. What makes a great business is the culture and people. (ResMed founder Peter) Farrell always found the best people he could afford. He was big in academia.

“You never really know where you are going to get to, but companies that believe they can really change things out there is the common thread, and we have got the foundations of that.”

Five years of work has resulted in something that is potentially groundbreaking.”

— Phil Kwok, ApneaSeal

Mr Kwok said the technology used is simple and scalable. It also helps to address one of the biggest issues facing patients suffering from sleep apnoea: compliance. Many patients discontinue therapy due to lack of comfort, which often is related to the mask.

“You have got to get people compliant,” he said. “Our biggest competitor is actually ignorance to sleep disorders. People get used to wearing a compromise.”

Moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea and associated disease issues costs the Australian economy more than $21 billion a year, according to Deloitte Access Economics.

With the cost of healthcare sky-rocketing, Mr Kwok said failures with sleep apnoea masks costs both patients and insurers.

“To get this right from the get-go is potentially saving healthcare systems major costs,” he said.

So how does it work? Patients’ faces are scanned and the data is sent to ApneaSeal’s design engineers, which process it through cloud-based 3D modelling tools to make a custom-made nose mask. The process and delivery can be completed in a few days and can be sent directly to the patient – a benefit during COVID-19 as people would normally have to be fitted in person.

ApneaSeal sits under the Bespoke Medical Innovations umbrella, which is aiming to capitalise on the macro trend in customising medical devices. Its other business is orthopaedics, such as custom replacement knee joints.

“This is not easy to do. We take longer to put a new mask product out than a Korean car company takes to get a new model out,” he said. “Five years of work has resulted in something that is potentially groundbreaking.”

ApneaSeal’s backers include long-serving former Ramsay Health Care boss, Pat Grier, and former ResMed director, Michael Quinn. Mr Quinn also co-founded Memtec, which was acquired by US Filter in 1997 for $400 million.

Mr Kwok said the company has a couple of groundbreaking ideas it is keen to introduce to the market including a full-face mask system that is currently under development. It is likely to seek additional funding for the full-face mask program.

ApneaSeal has also benefited from the federal government’s R&D tax incentive scheme. Proposed major cuts to the scheme were scrapped in October’s budget.

Are sleep apnea sufferers at greater risk from COVID-19?

Within only a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has swept almost all areas of the globe, putting stress on healthcare systems and instilling new anxieties in people with underlying health conditions. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may be wondering whether this new respiratory infection poses a significant risk to you in the short or long term. While there is still much to be learned about this particular coronavirus infection, scientists have established that there are two important factors related to sleep apnea that could put you at greater risk of suffering severe effects from the disease: age and chronic health conditions such as heart disease, COPD, and diabetes. If you are an older person and suffer from an underlying health condition, therefore, it is worth taking extra special precautions to avoid infection such as safe social distancing and washing your hands on a daily basis. While most people are already aware of these risk factors, sleep apnea sufferers who use a CPAP mask may also be at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications thanks to the lesser-known fact that pressurised air can facilitate contagion pathways if proper health and safety measures are not followed. Indeed, the aspirated fluid that travels down the throat when using a CPAP machine can easily transport pathogens such as COVID-19 to the lungs and cause pneumonia. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to prevent infection when using a CPAP device. These include:

1. Maintain your CPAP treatment regime

Sleep is vital for maintaining a healthy immune system, so do not be tempted to forego your CPAP treatment. Getting adequate sleep will also lower your chances of developing severe complications from COVID-19.

2. Keep the CPAP machine far away from others

If you are living with others, remind them not to go near your machine. If they cough or breathe on it, infected droplets could potentially find a very easy route to your lungs. Remember that people can pass on the infection even if they don’t show symptoms.

3. Sanitise your CPAP machine

Try to clean your CPAP machine every day, including the tubing, humidifier water chamber, and the masks. Also, remember to wash your hands and face before wearing the mask.

4. Replace the CPAP filter

Remember to replace the CPAP filter as and when necessary, washing it at regular intervals to avoid infection.

Rely on ApneaSeal for all your CPAP needs

If you need CPAP supplies or advice about maintaining good hygiene while using your machine, get in touch with ApneaSeal today!

Anxiety and sleep apnea- how to reduce stress before bed

According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety and stress can either be the cause of sleeping disorders or can exacerbate existing sleeping problems. Stress and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can be both the cause and effect of each other, leading to a vicious cycle of no sleep and rising stress levels. In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at a few ways you can reduce your stress levels to ease your sleep apnea symptoms. Exercise in the morning or afternoon Whether it’s cycling, jogging, walking or playing a sport, engaging in some form of physical activity during the day is a great way of releasing mental and physical tension. However, exercise will temporarily increase your body temperature, so it’s a good idea to exercise no less than 3 hours before you go to sleep so that your body temperature can return to normal. Try deep breathing Conscious, slow and deep breathing is a powerful and ancient method of clearing your body of any tension or stress and is a great way of relaxing to transition your body into sleep mode. Deep breathing can set off several physiological changes that can lead to relaxation, such as reducing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and reducing muscle tension. Your breathing practice doesn’t have to be complicated, however, you can simply take the time to take several slow breaths at certain points during the day or whenever you feel anxious. Guided imagery Guided imagery is a technique that connects the mind and body to reduce tension and promote sleep. Guided imagery exercises engage all of your senses during a focused period of imagination, which connects the unconscious mind with the conscious mind to create a positive physical and mental response. Taking a few minutes to imagine yourself in an idyllic situation, such as floating in the ocean or laying on the beach, is a great way of helping you mentally detach from everyday stresses and relax your body to prepare it for sleep. If you struggle with sleep apnea, get in touch with our experts at ApneaSeal today to create your custom 3D fitted CPAP mask.

How to sleep with a noisy CPAP machine

If you’re new to using a CPAP machine, an immediate hurdle may be getting used to the noise. In fact, 29% of CPAP users reported that the noise disturbed their sleep. While many modern CPAP machines come with a silent feature, they will still make some sound. You and your partner may find this a challenge, but there are some simple solutions to minimise these effects. Check the source of the noise If your machine is making excessive noise, it may be a sign that there’s a problem. For example, if it’s coming from the tubing, it could indicate trapped fluid, causing unwanted noise. Equally, the machine’s filter may need changing. If you’re concerned about excessive noise, contact your medical advisor or the CPAP machine’s manufacturer for advice. Sometimes the noise sounds as though it’s coming from the mask, which may suggest it’s leaking or poorly fitted. Consider investing in a custom 3D fitted mask from ApneaSeal to ensure a proper fit, minimising potential noise and helping you sleep more soundly. Move the machine The position of your machine may affect its noise levels. Consider moving your CPAP machine onto a carpeted or fluffy surface if vibrations are causing noise issues. You can also move the device further away from your head to reduce disruption, so long as it has around 6 inches of surrounding space to maintain proper circulation. Use earplugs While this may seem like an obvious solution, earplugs can minimise disturbance from external noises while you sleep. Earplugs are an excellent solution for both you and your partner while adjusting to the CPAP machine, and they’re available in a range of styles, materials, and sizes to suit your needs. Ensure you regularly clean and replace the plugs to prevent ear infections. Remember that the noise may not be as loud as you think, as the average CPAP machine registers at around 30dB, which is about as loud as a whisper. A new sound in your sleep environment will take time to get used to, so be patient. For more information about ApneaSeal’s 3D fitted masks for CPAP machines, get in touch with our team today.

How to sleep well with a CPAP mask

If you suffer from sleep apnea, sometimes spelt as sleep apnoea, then you may sleep with a CPAP machine. This is a common therapy which uses a mask to deliver steady and constant air pressure. However, some people find these masks uncomfortable, which can lead to a bad night’s sleep. To find out how to sleep well with a CPAP mask, continue reading. Feeling claustrophobic Some users of CPAP masks struggle to adjust to the sensation of wearing them, as they can feel claustrophobic. To combat this, try wearing your mask in the day time while you’re awake. Hold it up to your face first, and then try wearing it with the straps. Gradually introduce the masks with the attached hose, and turn on the CPAP machine. By getting used to how the mask feels in the day, you are far more likely to feel comfortable with it on at night. Removing the mask at night Do you wake up in the morning and find you have removed the mask in the night? This is very dangerous for your sleep apnea, so should be prevented. You may be removing your mask because of a congested nose. If this is the case, adding a CPAP heated humidifier could help fix the problem. Wearing a chin strap can also help keep the mask on your face. If you are still suffering from this problem, then it may be beneficial to set alarms throughout the night so you can check you’re still wearing it. Try a different CPAP mask It could be the case that your mask is the wrong fit for you, and therefore causing you issues. Everyone has different face shapes, so it is important to try a few different styles to see what works best for you. A custom-fitted mask could improve your sleep massively. Tailored specifically to your face, this type of mask will offer the most comfortable wear. At ApneaSeal, we create custom-fitted 3D masks for CPAP machines, meaning you can sleep comfortably. For more information, get in touch with us today.

Central vs. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea – What’s the difference?

Many people around the world suffer from sleep apnoea, but there are two main types. Both Central Sleep Apnoea (CSA) and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) can cause severe health conditions, and if you suspect you have either of them, you should consult a medical professional. We’re going to break down the differences between CSA and OSA. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

People with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea have an obstacle in their airway, so as the walls of your throat narrow with relaxation during sleep, your regular breathing is interrupted. This obstruction can cause loud snoring, laboured breathing, and repeated short periods of gasping for air.  A study in 2013 showed that one in ten Australians suffer from undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnoea. OSA, therefore, is relatively common and can affect your quality of life. As the lack of oxygen triggers your brain to wake you from a deep sleep, either into being fully awake or in light sleep, you can feel fatigued during the day too. 

Central Sleep Apnoea

Central Sleep Apnoea is much rarer and potentially more concerning than OSA. While shorter and frequent pauses in breathing are common for people with OSA, people with CSA find their breaks last for much longer and occur more frequently. Unlike the blocked airway for OSA patients, there is no blockage in the airways and no attempt to breathe for people with CSA. The audible sounds of loud snoring are less common. However, other symptoms, like insomnia, can offer indicators.  It is more dangerous because the lower levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide can slow circulation and even cause heart failure in extreme cases. 

How can a CPAP machine help?

  Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or ‘CPAP’ provides ventilation at a constant level of pressure, ensuring your airway doesn’t collapse while you sleep. The Sleep Health Foundation cites CPAP as ‘the most effective option’ for treating OSA. It can also help patients suffering from CSA. In all cases, you should consult your doctor for advice on diagnosis and treatment.  At ApneaSeal, we develop effective CPAP treatments by creating custom 3D fitted masks for sleep apnea machines. Get in touch today to find out more.

How to cope the day after a bad night’s sleep

If you suffer from a medical condition that affects your sleep it can be hard to know how to cope after a particularly bad night. Even without a condition, we’ve all been there. To try and help your mind and body get back on track, here is some advice on what to do, or what not to do, the day after a bad night’s sleep: Get up at the same time Many people who can’t sleep during the night find that they are suddenly able to sleep when the morning comes. It’s extremely tempting to switch off the alarm and continue sleeping, but this is often counterproductive. Sleeping late throws off your body clock, and means you won’t be ready to sleep again that night. It’s essential to try and avoid a second night of insufficient sleep, so try and force yourself to get up at your regular time. Go easy on the caffeine Jumping to coffee when you’re tired is easily done, but isn’t always the best idea. Caffeine is normally a part of a person’s morning routine, so if this is the case, feel free to have a mug. We recommend that you stop drinking coffee by lunchtime, however, because while it may feel like it’s helping initially, you’ll feel worse in the long run. Continuing to drink coffee throughout the afternoon and evening might affect your sleep the next night. Two bad nights in a row is something we definitely want to avoid. Don’t nap for too long It’s often assumed that when you haven’t slept well, you need to do some catching up. While this is true, it’s better left until the next night. If you desperately need a nap, we recommend no more than half an hour around lunchtime. If you sleep for too long or hit deep sleep, you won’t be tired by bedtime. It’s also important not to make bedtime obscenely early, as this will mess up your sleep schedule. If it’s sleep apnea that is causing your bad night’s sleep, don’t hesitate to contact us at Apnea Seal for guidance.

3 things you need to know about micro-sleep

Do you frequently doze off without realising it? You may be experiencing a micro-sleep. In this blog, we’ll break down exactly what a micro-sleep is and what you can do to help. What is a micro-sleep? A micro-sleep refers to a temporary period of sleep lasting anywhere between a couple of seconds to a minute. They happen suddenly and without conscious intent. Individuals tend to become unresponsive to some sensory input, like someone calling your name or tapping you on the shoulder. It could happen while you’re watching TV, eating, or while you’re doing an important task. Signs that you’re experiencing a micro-sleep include excessive yawning, muscle twitches, brief periods of snoring and struggling to keep your eyes open. The most frequent cause of a micro-sleep is sleep deprivation. Often, an underlying condition such as insomnia, sleep apnea or narcolepsy is tied to micro-sleeping, worsening the effects of sleep deprivation. It’s a sign that your regular night’s sleep is interrupted or insufficient. What are the risks? Micro-sleeps can impact cognitive functions such as memory, decision-making, and response time. The danger of micro-sleeping is losing focus while performing tasks that require attention. According to Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre, 45 percent of men and 22 percent of women experience micro-sleeping while driving. This frightening statistic demonstrates the risks posed by micro-sleeping to your health and those around you. What can you do to help? If an underlying condition is causing you to micro-sleep, you need to address it as the root of the problem. Consult a medical professional for advice if required. If you know you’ll need your full concentration to perform a task, rest up beforehand. A planned nap can help increase your alertness. If you recognise the signs of a micro-sleep, you can listen to upbeat music and keep your body moving to help stimulate your brain and retain your attention. If you think your sleep apnea is causing your micro-sleeping, an effective CPAP mask could help tackle your sleep deprivation. Talk to our experts at ApneaSeal today to get your 3D fitted mask and apnea machine.