MINNEAPOLIS -- 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that causes sufferers to stop breathing while they sleep. But a company from Maple Grove has made an innovative device that is helping a lot of people get a better sleep.

Slade Winchester had a hard time getting a good night’s sleep. At the urging of his wife, he underwent a sleep study that documents everything from brainwaves to breathing.

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Winchester was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

"Apparently, I was waking up 20, 30 times an hour," he said.

Sleep apnea happens when muscles in the back of the throat collapse which cuts off breathing.

"When people have severe sleep apnea, they have higher risk of cardiovascular disease, higher risk of stroke," explained Dr. Jennifer Hsia, assistant professor in the U of M Department of Otolaryngology.

The standard treatment is a CPAP machine, but like almost 50 percent of patients, he could not tolerate it.

"For six months I had a really hard time with it and became claustrophobic with it and stopped using it," Winchester said.

Then a year and a half ago, he received a revolutionary new implant called Inspire from Dr. Shaw.

It is planted just under the skin and turned on every night by remote control. It senses when breathing slows down and sends an electrical pulse to the tongue which then stimulates the airway to open.

The main side effect? A sore tongue. But a good night’s sleep is well worth the trade-off.