Sleep, glorious sleep

09 Jun, 2022
Sleep, glorious sleep

A new machine designed by AUT alumna Dalya Al-Mohamadamin could put a good night’s sleep back on the menu for the thousands of Kiwis suffering from sleep apnea.

As part of her recently completed PhD, Dalya has developed a tool that increases the comfort levels of sleep apnea sufferers and helps relieve some of the condition’s impacts.

Initial clinical trials and computer modelling have proven promising, and plans are now in the pipeline to undertake larger trials and collect more data to strengthen results. “Sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder which stops people from having a good sleep by restricting their breathing and preventing deep sleep. This leads onto poor performance in daily life, restlessness and eventually heart problems,” explains the biomedical engineering graduate.

“Current treatment is a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, however that falls short in a few key areas. It’s simplistic, not particularly comfortable to use, and doesn’t take full advantage of the repository system to minimise sleep apnea.”

Dalya’s innovation creates additional cyclical air pressure that stimulates the respiratory system while people sleep, boosting their comfort levels and reducing the number of times they stop breathing.

It should prove popular – it’s estimated that at least 4% of men and 2% of women in New Zealand suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and according to Dalya’s research, that number is on the rise. “Sleep apnea is becoming more common in developed nations and one of the main causes is obesity.

As technology and the pace of life accelerate, obesity rises and so too does the disorder.” Now that she’s graduated from AUT, Dalya hopes to continue her life-changing research within the industry, and eventually go back to university to teach biomedical engineering.

It’s a heavily male-dominated field, but she’s keen to drive change and inspire other women to join her journey - and as a finalist for the New Zealand L’Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science mentoring programme in 2020, she’s already proving to be a powerful role model.

“I encourage all women to consider biomedical engineering because it brings opportunity, contributes to society and is a rewarding career path that you can be proud of. At the very start of my PhD studies my professor said to me, ‘Dalya, life is too short. We should help each other for a better future’.

Those words have stuck with me ever since and are my inspiration to always try and help others.”

Read more inspiring alumni stories

This story was originally published in Insight, the magazine for AUT alumni and friends. Read the most recent issue of Insight for more stories of groundbreaking research and great AUT graduates who are making a difference around the world.

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