When it comes to snoring, Jinxiang Xi knows as well as anyone how disrupted sleep can affect daily life.
The Central Michigan University assistant professor of mechanical engineering is a self-professed snorer who studies respiratory dynamics.
His current research has the potential to develop snoring and sleep apnea treatments that will help him and countless others who are dealing with snoring-related issues.
"I am myself a snorer, so I know how important quality sleep can be for health," he said. "Without a good night of sleep, our immune systems can suffer, we are not as focused, and we experience fatigue throughout the day."
Xi recently received a National Science Foundation grant to support his research in fluid dynamics and the mechanisms that can lead to sleep apnea. Apnea is a potentially deadly disease in which people start and stop breathing while sleeping. Similar to snoring, it disrupts sleep and can lead to cardiac issues, fatigue and other health problems.
Xi began his mechanical engineering career studying jet engines and aerodynamics. He started working on the mechanics of how humans breathe when he realized how closely related the science was. His focus now — biofluid dynamics — is the same scientific process used in the turbine of a jet liner and in the mechanics of a breathing person.
"The working principle is exactly the same. We can use the same principle from a jet engine, which we know well, and apply them to what we are learning about the human body," he said.
Xi will use the grant to start clinical trials with real patients, focusing on two variables: an acoustic analysis of snoring and an MRI scan to visualize and pinpoint the mechanisms at play during sleep.
Using a smartphone app, Xi can pinpoint the cause with a simple recording of snoring. This knowledge and a computational model Xi has formulated for apnea will enable him to help physicians make more informed decisions about potential snoring and apnea treatments.
"With the right information and data, we can exactly predict what is causing the snoring and how to approach a cure," he said. "In addition, we will create a database of acoustics which can be used by clinicians to better diagnose snoring and make more informed decisions about surgeries and other treatments."