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UNTHSC, UT Arlington develop a more patient-friendly solution for sleep apnea

Masks worn by those with sleep apnea can leak at night and be so uncomfortable that they often drive users away from treatment.

Dr. Brandy Roane

Dr. Brandy Roane, an assistant professor at the University of North Texas Health Sciecne Center, is working with the UT Arlington Research Institute to develop a sleep apnea alarm system that will alert users if there is an air-flow leak in equipment.

But a new system being developed by researchers at UNT Health Science Center and The University of Texas at Arlington could make it easier for the estimated 18 million people with sleep apnea to get a good night’s rest.

The user-friendly system alerts the individual whenever there’s an airflow leak in their PAP or positive airway pressure machine, said Dr. Brandy M. Roane, assistant professor of internal medicine. Users will be able to decide if they want to be alerted by sound, lights or vibration – or through an app that tells them what’s wrong and the best way to address it.

The alert system is being developed through a Texas Medical Research Collaborative grant. The TMRC is a research partnership among universities, health care providers and corporations supporting health care.

“Some people may want to use a song or ring tone that is less disruptive to a bedmate,” Roane said. “Someone who is deaf may prefer to get a visual cue, such as color popping up on their phone.”

The alert system might be just what it takes to motivate the roughly 50 percent of patients with sleep apnea who give up on the treatment to keep using it.

An air-flow leak is one of the most common reasons people stop using the nighttime masks, said Eileen Clements, director of research at The University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute.

Eileen Clements

Eileen Clements, director of research at The University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute, is helping in the sleep apnea alert system research.

“The system we developed at the research institute will alert the user if there is an air-flow leak so that the user can make an informed adjustment to the mask or system or sleep position or some other behavior that helps them get the most benefit from their PAP therapy,” Clements said.  “Of course, the adjustment has to be made by the user, but they would utilize information from the system as well as guidance from their therapist or doctor.”

Sleep apnea is serious and if untreated can cause high blood pressure, memory problems, impotence and headaches. It also contributes to accidents.

“The hope is that people who use this will benefit from PAP therapy by waking up with more energy,” Roane said. “And they won’t fall asleep at work or while they are driving.”


UNT Health Science Center is a values-based graduate university located on 33 acres in the heart of Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Founded in 1970, the university has approximately 2,500 students across its five graduate schools: Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, School of Health Professions and the UNT System College of Pharmacy. Key areas of interprofessional strength include aging and Alzheimer's disease, applied genetics, eye diseases, primary care and prevention. For more information, please visit

UT Arlington Research Institute

The mission of The University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute is to bridge the gap between academic research and product development in the areas of prediction modeling of composites and advanced materials, automation, intelligent and unmanned systems, advanced manufacturing, biomedical technologies and biological microsystems. UTARI serves as host of industry symposia, consortia and events that bring partners together to further research and development. Visit to learn more.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System.  The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at

-- written by Kari Kirkham