Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes people to briefly stop breathing while asleep, affects an estimated 5 percent of the population, not including the many more who don’t even realize they suffer from the disorder.

Patients are sometimes treated with a machine that blows air into the patient’s airway through a face mask, but no drug treatments exist. In an advance that may change that, MIT researchers have discovered that a dietary supplement called yohimbine reverses the root cause of obstructive sleep apnea in an animal model.