Snoring affects 30 million of us – and that includes people’s partners as well
There are around 15 million snorers in the UK, according to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association (BSSAA), and snoring “affects” 30-million of us, which means that the condition causes a “sleep deficit” for partners, as well as sufferers themselves…
Tossing and turning, Amanda pulled herself out of bed and padded wearily to the spare bedroom, where she slept for at least half the night, most nights of the week. Meanwhile, her husband, Robert, slumbered on, seemingly in a deep sleep, signalled by the cacophony of cascading snores, which must surely register on the decibel level as “epic”, she mused.
“I don’t want to complain but it’s like this most nights, especially if he’s had a drink or two…It’s so bad, he even wakes himself up sometimes,” Amanda says.
The act of snoring is the vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound is due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. In some cases, the sound may be soft, but in most cases, it can be loud and unpleasant.
Amanda is far from alone in having a partner whose nocturnal noises cause disruption not only to sleep, but to marital harmony. Men, particularly those aged 50 to 59, are the most likely to snore, and at the highest volume. Anyone who’s tried to combat the condition with sleep aids and other gadgets knows all too well that snoring is a difficult condition to treat.
Recent research by the British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association, revealed that of the 1100 plus people polled, 77 per cent said their snorer was willing to seek a solution, but had yet to find it. However, one in four snorers are not doing anything about it, forcing their partners to endure endless nights of misery, with the resultant strain that puts on relationships. Thirty-one per cent of couples sleep in separate rooms. But who sleeps where? By a small margin, it is the snorers who are leaving the main bedroom to sleep in the spare room, but there are still 12 per cent of people who are suffering the discomfort and indignation of sleeping on the sofa, all because their partner snores…
Amanda observed that her partner seemed to stop breathing and catch his breath in between snores. “It looked and sounded like he suddenly stopped breathing, which was obviously of great concern to me, especially as he told me he was not aware of it, even though it did wake him up,” she says.
Concerned, Amanda persuaded Robert to book an appointment to see his GP who referred her husband to a specialist. Soon after, Robert was diagnosed with a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).
OSA causes the suffer to suddenly stop breathing, automatically forcing him to wake up to start breathing again. This can happen many times during the night making it hard for the body to get enough oxygen, and obtain good quality sleep. Loud snoring, interruptions to breathing at night and feeling sleepy during the day are all common symptoms of the condition. Because these symptoms develop over many years, they are often unrecognised by the patient and it is the bed partner who notices them first.
Marianne J Davey MSc, Director of The British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association, said: “There are so many reasons as to why somebody snores and your snoring is most likely not the same reasons as your next door neighbour. The key to stopping snoring is to see a specialist who will help you find the cause or causes – most snoring is not just a function of one thing it is usually several things going on at once – and then determine what treatment is most suitable for you.
“The only way the partner can deal with it is to either help the partner to resolve the problem or move to another room until the snorer has resolved the problem. Female partners of snorers can suffer from multiple health problems if they are subjected to snoring for a length of time.”
Smoking and regularly drinking alcohol can also lead to snoring and OSA, as can being overweight, a mispositioned jaw caused by stress, obstruction in the nasal passageway and weakness of the throat. Apnoea is also an independent risk factor for conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, congestive cardiac failure, and coronary artery disease.
So, what can be done to stop snoring, or limit its effects? Aside from separate bedrooms, earplugs can be of some limited help to a snorer’s bed partner. But, for more effective and long-term solutions, sufferers may need to consult a specialist.
One such is a company called ‘ArchformByte’ (www.archformbyte.com), a specialist orthodontic practice, where a variety of treatments are deployed to help the snorer. ‘The Silensor’ is one of the oral appliances which can be worn at night, and can be the most effective form of specialist treatment. This non-bulky appliance consists of upper and lower clear pressure-formed base plates. Using arms connected between the two bases, the jawbone is kept in a forward-facing position leaving the air way free during sleep.
Pennie Hudson-Ward, Chief Executive at ArchformByte, explains: “The Silensor, nicknamed ‘The Marriage Saver’ by many of our patients, has a huge advantage for patients, as it can be worn discreetly while you sleep, and because the lower jaw can still move it is comfortable to wear as well as having the desired effect. We have already had a large number of successes with patients using the Silensor, and have found it to be more consistently effective than other conventional treatments.”
Other devices on the market include breathing masks to help keep the airways open. The masks are effective even in severe apnoea cases and are considered the method of choice in these cases. However, the breathing mask must be set up and adjusted in a sleep laboratory. It is a vital piece of equipment although at times may prove inconvenient. Breathing strips that fit over the nose can also open the airways.
A last resort is surgery. Usually surgery is used to remove respiration-impairing structures, such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids. There is also a treatment available called CELON® snoreplasty (Radio-Frequency Palatal Stiffening) available. Anirvan Banerjee, a leading ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) surgeon, based at Nuffield Health Tees Hospital specialises in this technique, which uses radio frequency waves to tighten the slack muscles in the soft palate at the back of the throat to reduce vibration – the commonest cause of snoring.
Pennie Hudson-Ward continues: “Current advances in technology are changing the way we deal with snoring. With scanning and 3D printing, for example, an aid can be created quickly for a patient that is tailored to their exact specifications. They come away with something comfortable, effective and discrete without spending hours in the dentist’s chair, which is great news for everyone, particularly their long-suffering partners.”