University of Tartu researchers help to revolutionise sleep apnoea treatment

Researchers of the University of Tartu Institute of Dentistry participate in a 15-million-euro project Sleep Revolution that aims to transform the research, diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea and the related disorders. As one part of the project, a digital platform will be developed to help patients with snoring and sleep apnoea to exercise the muscles of the tongue and face.

The extensive project focuses on obstructive sleep apnoea that nearly one billion people are estimated to suffer from worldwide. This serious disorder is associated with various negative health consequences including increased risk of heart disease, hypertension and daytime sleepiness, which may lead to road accidents, for instance. The current diagnostic metrics are outdated, and treatment methods need to be optimised.

The project Sleep Revolution brings together almost 40 international collaborating partners from academia and industry. Together, partners will develop machine-learning techniques to better estimate the severity and treatment needs for obstructive sleep apnoea, to improve health outcomes and quality of life. With the commitment of the European Sleep Research Society and the Assembly of National Sleep Societies, with its more than 8000 members, the project further aims to create new standardised international guidelines for sleep medicine.

The project involves building a powerful database consisting of data from sleep measurements of 30 thousand individuals, collected in Norway and around Europe. Additional data will be collected using smartwatches, questionnaires, sleep-measuring devices, and neuropsychological tests. A safe digital platform will be developed for scientists, health professionals, and participants in obstructive sleep apnoea studies to share their data and research findings for research and diagnosis purposes.

The project is led by Erna Sif Arnardóttir from Reykjavík University. She said that it is an honour to get this opportunity to bring together this large group of Europe‘s leading experts and innovators in sleep research into one large research and development project to move the field into the forefront of digital healthcare. “By using interdisciplinary methods and new possibilities in information technology and artificial intelligence, we aim to revolutionise how knowledge of obstructive sleep apnoea and other sleep-related breathing disorders, such as habitual snoring, is gained and used. We will shift the focus in analysis and treatment to the daily lives of people and pave the way for more individualised and personal health care,” said Arnardóttir.

Strong participation of the University of Tartu

In the project, researchers from the Institute of Dentistry of the University of Tartu are led by Associate Professor in Orthodontics Triin Jagomägi and offer their long-term competence and extensive knowledge about functional anomalies of the maxillofacial region and about involving myofunctional therapy in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea.

Jagomägi recognises that the number of exhaustive studies about myofunctional therapy is limited and those that have been done have had rather a small sample. “The field has nicely developed in Estonia, so we are renowned researchers of functional anomalies of the oral cavity and can apply our know-how in a large consortium, as achieving a wider reach on our own is rather difficult due to our small size,” said Jagomägi, adding that their team is currently conducting two studies also in Vietnam.

In the project Sleep Revolution, the task of Jagomägi’s team is to develop the methodology for analysing the jawbones and bite of the subjects from Norway and measure and evaluate that before and after the intervention. The Estonian researchers will also help to prepare video-based treatment

materials for the patients, train myofunctional therapy teams in Norway and help to coordinate the organisation of treatment.

Sleep Revolution, an interdisciplinary international research and development project, has been selected for a 15-million euro grant from the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 under the challenge for “Health, demographic change and wellbeing”.

Further information:
Triin Jagomägi
Associate Professor in Orthodontics, University of Tartu
+372 515 3634