Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing frequently stops and starts. Left untreated, it can lead to a myriad of health issues.

PAP therapy is the standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. During PAP therapy, the patient wears a mask attached to a CPAP machine while they’re sleeping. The device helps regulate the patient’s breathing, allowing for better quality rest and fewer disruptions to sleep.

Philips — which makes a number of traditional CPAP devices — also offers a maskless sleep apnea therapy option. Philips NightBalance can be used to treat positional sleep apnea, a condition in which most of the patient’s apneic episodes are caused by their sleeping position. This condition is not uncommon: it’s believed that around 50% of those with OSA experience positional sleep apnea.

Here, we’ll explain how Philips NightBalance works and discuss its role in treating positional sleep apnea.

What is mask-free sleep apnea therapy?

Mask-free sleep apnea therapy can prove particularly beneficial to those who struggle with wearing a mask throughout the night, and some may find this type of treatment easier to adjust to than traditional CPAP therapy.

One such mask-free treatment is oral appliance therapy (OAT). Oral sleep apnea treatment devices stop the airway from collapsing by moving the jaw forward or holding the tongue in position to lower the risk of interrupted, irregular, or halted breathing.

Patients who have been diagnosed with positional sleep apnea (usually identified through a sleep study) may be advised to begin positional therapy, another form of mask-free OSA treatment. This is a behavioural strategy that encourages the patient to sleep on their side instead of on their back, reducing the risk and severity of apnea events. A 2012 study found positional therapy to be effective in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and its symptoms.

In its most basic form, positional therapy can simply be an item placed behind the patient’s lower back to stop them from changing sleeping positions. Positional therapy can also involve special devices like Philips NightBalance, which uses vibrational feedback to help patients stay on their side while they sleep.

How does Philips NightBalance work?

Philips NightBalance is a mask-free treatment for positional sleep apnea.

The small device is worn in a comfortable, adjustable strap across the patient’s chest while they sleep. The user can fall asleep in any position and after 15 minutes, Philips NightBalance will activate and begin tracking their sleep activity. If the patient rolls over and begins sleeping on their back, the Philips NightBalance detects this and emits gentle vibrations to prompt them to return to sleeping on their side. When the patient returns to the side-sleeping position, the vibrations end.

To help patients adjust to the treatment, Philips NightBalance offers a unique nine-night adaptation program with gradually changing vibration levels. During the first two nights of treatment, Philips NightBalance monitors the patient’s sleeping behaviour but does not administer any therapy.

Over the next seven days, vibrations are slowly introduced to allow the patient to acclimate to their new positional sleep apnea therapy. On day 10 and forward, full treatment is delivered as needed.

The Philips NightBalance can provide extra support to those undergoing — or considering — positional therapy as part of their OSA treatment. More than 7 out of 10 people using Philips NightBalance said they had lasting improvement in the three most common positional OSA symptoms (non-refreshing sleep, fatigue, and episodes of breathing cessations, gasping, or choking during the night).

Is this an alternative to CPAP therapy?

Sleep apnea is a serious condition which requires professional medical attention and, generally, some form of ongoing treatment. While PAP therapy administered via a mask is considered the most effective treatment of OSA, it’s certainly not the only option. 

If you are considering beginning positional therapy aided by Philips NightBalance, consult with your doctor before making any changes to your current treatment plan.

How to get the most out of Philips NightBalance

Sticking to PAP therapy and being consistent in your treatment is essential to getting the most from your Philips NightBalance. Philips recommends charging the Sensor Device of your Philips NightBalance every morning after treatment to ensure the machine has sufficient battery level when you next use it. You should follow Philips’ cleaning instructions for your NightBalance device, but no other regular maintenance of the device is required. 

Your device can be connected to the Philips NightBalance mobile app, which makes it easy for you to track the progress of your treatment — this data can also be shared with your doctor. Seeing the results of your mask-free sleep apnea treatment can help you stay motivated as you adjust to positional therapy.

Thanks to medical and technological advances, there are now many different approaches that can be taken to treating obstructive sleep apnea. If you feel you could benefit from mask-free sleep apnea therapy, work with your healthcare provider to determine a suitable treatment plan. 

For more information on sleep apnea, please see: