An estimated 75 per cent of people in the UK snore1, causing those sharing a bed or a house with them to suffer frequently disrupted sleep. But how much impact does it really have on their lives? Matt Everatt considers a few of the answers to the age-old problem of snoring.
‘There were times when I wanted to put a pillow over his head and smother him… it really was that bad.’
An alarming statement to say the least, but this is how Pat Wood, 64, recalls the years of poor sleep she suffered because of her husband Jim’s snoring. Although Pat now has the ability to look back on these years with a certain degree of humour, the last forty years have certainly been no laughing matter.
Over the years, Jim has tried just about every treatment on the market in an attempt to stop his snoring, but with no avail. He remembers the time that he first realised that he was keeping others awake with his snoring,
‘Forty-five years ago I used to do a lot of cycling with friends, and often it would end up with twenty or thirty of us staying overnight somewhere. When we woke in the morning someone would say ‘who the heck was that snoring last night?’ and I later found out it was me!’
Although his cycling days are now long behind him, until very recently the same can’t be said for his snoring.
Having tried numerous solutions to alleviate the problem, Jim spent money not only on ‘gadgets and gizmos’ but eventually surgery.
‘I’d tried every potential solution under the sun; the one where you roll a ball up your back, the one when you put strips across the nose… I even went into hospital and had laser treatment on my throat, but none of it worked,’ recounts Jim who runs a B&B in Pentewan, St Austell, Cornwall.
Amazingly, just when Jim and Pat were about to give up all hope of ever finding an effective solution, they discovered S4S – the specialist dental splint laboratory who were able to recommend a dentist locally who was specially trained in providing snoring therapy. Now a couple of years on, both Jim and Pat enjoy peaceful, snore-free sleep thanks to a custom-made Sleepwell mouthpiece.
‘I haven’t looked back once,’ says a delighted Jim.
‘I used to be kicked, punched, and told to sleep in the spare room, and if the bedroom window was open, anyone within twenty yards could hear my snoring. I now get seven to eight hours sleep with no snoring whatsoever, it’s absolutely brilliant!’
A very relieved sounding Pat added: ‘It’s just such a relief. Over the years we’ve tried anything and everything to stop the snoring and never had any luck, but now I have a wonderful night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. For some people, snoring is an amusing and trivial issue, but I can assure you that for anyone who has ever had to cope with it, there is nothing funny or trivial about it.’
The main cause of snoring is the partial closure of the airway during sleep. Whilst sleeping, muscles in the neck relax, and for some people the soft tissue in the upper throat vibrates; making the sound known as snoring.
There are several factors that make some people more susceptible to snoring than others, including:
• Physiology – the shape of the airway in some people makes snoring more likely
• Being overweight – excess body fat increases the chances of snoring
• Age – throat muscles become weaker with age and can increase snoring
• Lifestyle – some people snore after drinking alcohol, which can cause further relaxation in the neck and throat.
S4S technical director Matt Everatt explains: ‘Snoring is a big issue both for snorers and their partners. Not only is sleep disturbed, but also concentration, the ability to work, their relationships; and in severe cases, it can be life-threatening (see sleep apnoea).
‘At S4S we see our role not only as a laboratory but also largely educational; we explain the condition and helping people find the appropriate solutions. Obviously we also want dentist to use our appliances, but not indiscriminately to patients; that’s why there are protocols to follow.’
S4S owns the UK rights to manufacture ‘Sleepwell’, a custom-made mouthpiece remedy that was clinically tested in Australia and has since proven to be Jim Wood’s saviour. To be worn during sleep, the mouthpiece consists of two pressure formed splints that cover the upper and lower teeth and incorporates an adjustable mechanism to allow the patient to advance the mandible. It works by preventing the lower jaw from dropping back, so stopping the closure of the airway. ‘Sleepwell’ is only available from dentists that have undergone appropriate training, and is made by dental technicians at the S4S laboratory. Matt is delighted with the results.
‘We’ve had incredibly positive feedback from patients and dentists. As well as training dentist we continue to spread our education campaign to GPs who are often the first port of call for patients looking for an answer to their snoring. We are very privileged to work closely with Dr Ama Johal, Consultant at the Barts & London. We support his seminars ‘Snoring – A role for the GDP’. He has trained well over 1000 GDPs in the UK and has developed recognised and robust screening tools aimed to help GDPs screen their patients for Sleep Apnoea.’
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) occurs when a person stops breathing while asleep, which can be up to 50-60 times an hour. These breathing interruptions, known as ‘apnoeas’, happen when the airway narrows so much that it closes. The closure of the airway causes breathing to stop, which in turn reduces the oxygen level in the blood. The brain reacts by releasing adrenalin, which causes a partial wakening of the snorer. The snorer will often not be aware of this partial wakening during the night.
Many sufferers have excessive daytime sleepiness, and they can inadvertently fall asleep, making the condition potentially dangerous. Experts recommend a sleep study to assess the degree of OSA before treatment options are considered. Continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) is used to treat severe cases of OSA in which equipment pumps filtered humidified air under pressure into the nose to prevent the upper airway from collapsing.
A recent survey highlighted that snorers are three times more likely to suffer from hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high cholesterol; and nearly four times more likely to suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness than non-snorers.