Q: Is the Provent nasal device for sleep apnea really effective?
A: It may help some people, though it’s hard to tell since there’s not much research behind it.
Sleep apnea is characterized by frequent stopping and starting of breathing during sleep, often accompanied by explosive snoring. It affects sleep quality and increases the risk of hypertension, heart disease and other serious medical conditions. Many people with sleep apnea do not like to use the continuous positive airway pressure, CPAP, machine, which is the standard therapy, because they find it too cumbersome and uncomfortable.
The Provent device, sold by prescription, is a more manageable alternative, consisting of two small patches with valves that you insert into each nostril at night. It uses the force of your breathing to help keep nasal airways open and prevent throat muscles from collapsing, as happens in sleep apnea. A company-sponsored study that included 250 people found that Provent significantly decreased apnea episodes and reduced daytime sleepiness over three months, compared to a sham device.
But like CPAP, it doesn’t work for everyone— not if you breathe through your mouth at night, or if you have a stuffy or blocked nose. And the cost of the single-use patches—$68 to $80 a month—is not covered by most insurance or Medicare.
According to some sleep experts, Provent is worth a try if you have sleep apnea, but is probably best used in place of standard therapy only under certain circumstances, such as if you are traveling and can’t or don’t want to take the bulky CPAP machine with you.