West Australian research could make sleep studies a thing of the past

Stock image.
Stock image.

SLEEP studies could be a thing of the past with a West Australian researcher receiving a grant to study the use of 3D face modelling.

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a serious health condition usually accompanied by snoring.

It occurs when the upper airway collapses, breathing stops and the body is starved of oxygen.

Serious sleep apnoea leads to increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. It can also result in road and work accidents.

A team of Western Australian researches at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital – with University of Western Australia respiratory and sleep physiologist Professor Peter Eastwood – is analysing the facial contours of more than 5000 Western Australians to identify measurements at various points on the face, head and neck that could be indicative of the condition.

The team have developed computer software which can map the face and ‘morph’ structural variations, providing a way of predicting the severity of sleep apnoea.

Despite being readily treatable, current definitive diagnosis requires an overnight stay in a customised sleep laboratory which is costly and labour intensive.

Sleep apnoea affects about nine per cent of Australians, but 75 per cent of people with the debilitating condition don’t know they have it.

Health Minister Roger Cook said this project is an example of innovative research underway in Western Australia.

“Professor Eastwood and his team have the potential to make a big difference to the lives of everyday Western Australians and provide substantial savings to our health system,” he said.

“Sleep disorders cost the Australian health system $818 million a year – most of this is directly attributable to sleep apnoea.”