I went to my local chiropractor last week, and while I was waiting for my appointment ( I was 5 minutes early) in the reception area, a flat screen monitor was running a loop on the various conditions that chiropractic services can treat. When snoring came up , I almost yelled out "BINGO".
Simply put, the noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. When the tongue and the upper throat strike the soft palate and uvula (the little extension of soft tissue in the back of your throat), that all too familiar snoring sound takes place. There are many causes including being overweight, having very large tonsils, consuming alcohol or sleep medication that promotes the relaxation of the muscles in your throat, a blocked nose due to allergies or a cold or a sinus infection, or certain deformities of the nose like a deviated septum.
45% of adults snore at least occasionally and unfortunately it gets worse with age. Those of us who do snore (according to my wife, that includes me), are constantly reminded that our partners are suffering even more than we are! Left unresolved, this situation can lead to serious long-term health problems as well as the need for an additional bedroom.
So, what's the solution? From my personal experience and with the help of my close relationships with physicians, ear nose and throat specialists, sleep study clinicians, and my personal interest in the use of dental appliances to treat this condition, I recommend that the following steps be taken in strict order:
1. If you are overweight, try 'Weight Watchers'. I strongly believe that this is one of the best ways to lose weight and actually keep it off.
2. Go to your family doctor, (or if you don't have one, come to me) and ask for a referral to a sleep study clinic. You must determine if you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. When loud snoring is interrupted by frequent episodes of totally obstructed breathing, this condition can be very serious and MUST be addressed. Serious episodes last for more than 10 seconds and occur more than 7 times per hour. Apnea patients may experience 30 to 300 such events per night. After many years, the stress on the heart to pump harder due to the lack of oxygen, can lead to heart enlargement and elevated blood pressure.
3. If the results of the sleep study show that you have chronic obstructive apnea, you will require a CPAP machine which delivers a constant positive air pressure of oxygen while you sleep. These machines have come a long way and are now rather silent and relatively comfortable.
4. If the results of the sleep study show that you do not have apnea, or that your apnea is very mild, you have many options available to you. Congratulations . You now belong to a multi million dollar market that is being exploited by professionals as well as non professionals, who often claim that they will guarantee success with their approach or with their product. This becomes a long, expensive, and frustrating road that often leads nowhere. My advice is to begin with the least expensive approach that makes sense to your specific lifestyle and is the least invasive and disruptive approach. For me, the road looked something like this:
A) Sleep Study with normal results i.e no sleep apnea
B) Breathe Right Nasal Strips - Each drug-free nasal strip consists of a flexible 'spring-like' band that when placed correctly across the nose, it gently opens the nasal passages to make breathing easier. It works for many snorers, but unfortunately it didn't work for me. These can be found at most pharmacies.
C) No alcohol before bed and heavy meals should be completed 3 hours before sleep time. This works for some people, however my working schedule often sees me getting home after 8 p.m and by then I am famished and ready for a big meal. Clearly this solution is not workable for me.
D) Sew a few tennis balls to the inside of your pyjama tops, as this will prevent you from sleeping on your back. You are more likely to snore when on your back because the force of gravity helps to place all the excess, soft, flabby, and relaxed tissues in the back of your throat in contact with one another, creating that beautiful melodic sound. This didn't work for me because I prefer sleeping on my back, and chiropractors and physiatrists will tell you that correct spinal alignment is best achieved by sleeping on your back as opposed to sleeping on your side.
E) Special anti-snoring dental appliances can be made to reposition your lower jaw slightly forward. When your lower jaw is kept in that forward position, a rather large space is created in the back of your throat . The tissues of your soft palate and uvula are kept separate and away from the tissues of your throat and tongue. There are various appliances that can be made, all of which are based on the same principal described above. The materials used in these appliances determine the cost. One of the best appliances is called the 'Suad Device" and you should google it to get more information. I have made many appliances for my patients with varied success. Some of you have been cured with this appliance, while some of you felt that you wasted a lot of money. As I mentioned, there are many different types of appliances but I will only use the best and most resilient products and these are rather expensive. This appliance did not work for me because, like for so many people, having a rather large appliance in your mouth can be intolerable and uncomfortable. I tried to keep it in my mouth for a week, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful. However, as I said, many people are successful with this option.
F) BINGO!!!!!!!!! and back to my chiropractor's flat screen television. "Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow" is the only pillow that allows you to sleep on your back and/or on your side while maintaining correct spinal alignment. They claim that this pillow provides back and neck therapy while you sleep, relieving stress and relaxing muscles. The design prevents your head from being pushed forward while sleeping on your back and this helps reduce snoring by keeping the air passages open. There is a unique '"Wedge Extension" that supports your upper back. There is a " Cervical Contour" that maintains the natural curve of your neck and a "Center Cavity" that cradles the head for optimal support. When you roll over onto your side there are 'Raised Side Sections" that accommodate your shoulder height keeping your spine in its ideal alignment. There are "Side Cavities" that provide flexible cushioning, ensuring jaw comfort which is essential for TMJ sufferers. Please google it for more information.
What can I say? This has been my journey of 6 months, and happily for me and my wife (and my dogs) it had a Hollywood ending. I never did lose my sleeping partner (hooray!!) , no need for a CPAP machine or a dental appliance, and I can still have my late evening meals. The Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow was my solution, and no, I am not in any way affiliated or associated with this product. Incidentally, you can purchase it online at Amazon.com, although ideally you should be properly measured and fitted for the appropriate size by a chiropractor. I hope that you will persevere and find the solution that is right for you. It may take a while, but it is important to deal with your snoring affliction, as its physical and social consequences can be serious.
Dr. Brian Kaplansky