Arthur Chill is devoted to his new bedtime routine. He explains how it works, "place the device in your nostril, and just press down with the adhesive." In a matter of seconds, he tapes two tiny valves to his nostrils. "Voila," he says, "done, ready to go to bed."
The 69-year-old has severe sleep apnea and hasn't been able to get a good night's sleep for most of his life. He'd wake up 48 times an hour. The condition deprives him of oxygen, putting him at risk of heart disease and leaving him constantly exhausted.
Arthur first tried to treat his sleep apnea with a CPAP mask. It forces air through the nose and into the throat. But Arthur says, "it's very obtrusive. I felt like I was an astronaut."
So doctors gave him tiny nostril valves called Provent.
Dr. Jeffrey Barasch of the Valley Hospital Center for Sleep Medicine says "they're generating the same type of pressure to the throat, but they're generating with their own breathing by using this device."
When patients inhale, the valves inside the nostril open, allowing for unobstructed air flow. When they exhale, the valves close, partially restricting airflow, maintaining pressure in the airway and keeping the throat open.
Provent only works for patients who breathe through their noses. Dr. Barasch says, "it tends to be more successful in patients who have milder sleep apnea or people who just snore." But it's working in Chill's severe case. He says, "I'm refreshed in the morning and I don't have the fear of a heart attack happening."
Provent isn't covered by most insurance companies, but the device makers are working to change that. Without insurance, each disposable Provent runs about a dollar.