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Device means snorers no longer lose sleep over killer.

A scientist has invented a device which could help save people from death by snoring.

The device and analysis that goes with it was invented by Mr Mike Hilton, mathematics in medicine initiative fellow at Warwick University, and takes just 20 minutes to diagnose sleeping disorders.

The system could also make it easier to diagnose patients suffering from a deadly snoring problem, which starves its victims of air.

It has been tested successfully on patients at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital which treats 400 people a year for sleep disorders.

Sufferers of the deadly disorder stop breathing for short periods, usually waking up for air, sometimes up to 300 times a night.

The shortage of oxygen and lack of sleep may cause a heart attack or serious heart disease as well as making victims dangerously tired during the day and prone to accidents.

Traditionally, diagnosing sleep problems was a long, costly, process. The patient had to stay in hospital while a barrage of equipment measured snoring, tossing and turning and the heartbeat.

Doctors and scientists then spent up to six hours analysing the information, with the entire procedure costing up to pounds 1,000.

But Mr Hilton, aged 32, said the new method should allow patients to monitor themselves at home.

"All they will have to do is take home a device like a personal stereo and wear it at night," he said.

"Then the next morning they can drop it back to the hospital and an analysis can be done in 20 minutes."

Using sophisticated mathematical techniques the system allows doctors to identify sleep disorders by analysing heartbeats, and has proved such a success it is being adapted for use on asthma patients.

Mr Hilton came up with the idea while working as a physiologist in the sleep disorders clinic of the hospital, where he analysed nocturnal readings taken from patients.

"We started researching how sleep disorders affect the heart and we noticed that the patients had extremely variable heart rates. We thought it could be a possible tool for diagnosing the problem, we did some initial studies and it seemed to be just that," he said.

"It was not straightforward to do because the heartbeat is quite irregular normally."

Prof Jon Ayres, an asthma specialist at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, said results of trials of the new technique were about to be published.

"It is potentially very exciting but a bit subtle. We have a bit more work to do on the results," he said.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 5, 1999
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