When it comes to sleep apnea, doctors have been limited to 2-4 modalities of treatment. CPAP still being the most common. Other modalities include mandibular advancement devices, the Winx, and Provent to name a few. A new study “α2-Adrenergic blockade rescues hypoglossal motor defense against obstructive sleep apnea” is looking into a novel approach to treating sleep apnea. The article was published in JCI Insight via American Society for Clinical Investigation.
Yohimbine is the only prescription α2-adrenergic blocker (currently available over-the-counter in the USA as a dietary supplement without the need for prescription) that has been tested extensively in acute and long-term clinical studies to verify its relative safety when administered at a clinically recommended dose
Yohimbine is an alkaloid (indole) derived from the bark of a tree in Central Africa. In the veterinarian world it is used to reverse sedation, mostly in dogs. In humans, Yohimbine has been studied as a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction but data is pretty slim.
One of its properties, a short elimination half-life (36 minutes) is good for erectile issues but not for OSA. An extended-release yohimbine formulation taken before bedtime would be desirable for effective “treatment” of OSA throughout sleep. Previously anecdotal evidence implicates the potential benefits of yohimbine sleep apnea. These early clinical data do add to the present foundation that yohimbine may be a promising drug candidate for the treatment of OSA. There are however limitations to the study.
This study has been aimed at primarily verifying the viability of yohimbine therapy as a novel drug treatment of OSA. A large limitation is that the experiment was done in rats. Rats don’t naturally get sleep apnea. The researchers used electrical sensors to measure nerve activity in rats. They found that when the rats fell asleep the sleep apnea simulation caused the tongue muscle to relax and block airflow which is what happens in humans.
Currently there is no medicine that has been proved to improve sleep apnea. More research is needed to see if this will improve sleep apnea.
*Disclaimer: This entry is not meant to be medical advise. Talk to your doctor if you think you have sleeping problems.