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Snoring and Middle Age: Is There A Remedy Short of Homicide?
by Marjorie Dorfman

Does your partner’s snoring roar through your bedroom like a freight train and wake you up in the middle of the night? Do you harbor the secret, vengeful desire to wake him or her up, just to show how it feels? Learn how to cope with snoring. It won’t help you sleep any better, but at least you will have the necessary tools to keep your partner awake and suffering as well.

Silent night, Oh, holy night . . . Snorer out of town.    – The Dorfman Archives

Snoring may be many things, but it is no laughing matter. The problem is manifold throughout the free and not so free world. In fact, some experts contend that Asians are affected in a more severe way than Americans or Europeans. Apparently the facial structure of Asians is such that the snoring problem is magnified. An estimated forty-five percent of the population snores occasionally. Thirty percent of those over thirty snore, rising to forty percent in middle age. Fifty percent of men and forty percent of women snore. Even one of my cats snores, and the first time I heard it I woke up in fright, thinking there was a strange man in my bed. Snoring can cause great bedroom distress, leading as many as eighty percent of couples to end up sleeping in different rooms. No rest for the weary and no recipe, needless to say, for a good marriage or relationship. The social ramifications of snoring make it a serious subject. Snoring is often a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a sleep disorder that is potentially life threatening.

Why do people snore anyway, an awake and annoyed observer might ask? Well, snoring arises when the passage of air between the nose and throat is blocked, inhibiting normal breathing. Airflow vibrates across the soft palate tissue, which becomes relaxed during sleep. It can be brought on by alcohol, smoking, sleeping pills, blocked nose, sinusitis, enlarged tonsils, deformities in the nasal pathway and excess body weight. Obese middle-aged or older men and overweight menopausal women may start to snore. Some snorers produce the noise all night long and they do it every single night. Others snore only when they first go to sleep. The pattern varies with each individual. Added to all of this is the irritating reality that most snorers don’t even know they snore! (Guaranteed that they’ll figure it out when they end up sleeping alone, whoever they are!)

Almost eighty-five percent of snorers exceed thirty-eight decibels of sound, which is equivalent to the noise of light highway traffic. The average volume of snorers is sixty decibels, about as loud as normal speech, but really loud snorers can reach eighty to eighty-two decibels, the level of a loud yell. The record is ninety decibels, but whatever award was given for such a dubious honor should have been bestowed to the winner’s sleeping partner instead! (They should be commended for self control; having left the snorer alive long enough to receive the honor.) Men tend to snore more loudly than women do, although no one seems to know why. Among the female population, statistics indicate that women who snore are significantly shorter and heavier than women who don’t, with a greater incidence of nasal problems.

There is now scientific evidence provided by The Mayo Clinic that snoring has a very negative impact on the nonsnoring bedmate. These poor souls lose an average of one hour’s sleep per night. Researchers also discovered that nonsnorers wake up, at least briefly, more than twenty times PER HOUR during the night. This produces fragmented sleep. The study also revealed that the sleep of the nonsnorers is so disturbed that they may very well have a sleep disorder all their own. These bedmates end up irritated and sleep-deprived, which in turn affects mood, concentration, judgement and occasional thoughts of murder in the first, second and third degrees

What can be done about this? There are hundreds of possible solutions to the snoring problem, but not all remedies are for all people. One must become their own Ralph Nader, so to speak, and discover which is the best solution for them. American scientists claim they have developed a cheap, (thirty-five dollars) pain-free injection that will make people stop snoring forever. Snoreplasty, as it is called, involves injecting a chemical called tetradecyl sulphate into the fleshy soft palate at the back of the throat. The snoreplasty technique destroys some of the soft palate tissues and forms scar tissue, which stiffens the palate to reduce vibration. The procedure, which was developed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, can reduce the loudness of snoring from eleven decibels to two. It is still new and controversial, and even though most patients tested have had no relapses, I would still wait until more testing reveals all there is to know about its repercussions. (You never know. You could wind up with other parts of your body snoring instead of your nose and mouth. Then what would you do?)

Life style changes may afford a better solution to the problem. All the usual vices worsen snoring; alcohol, smoking, overeating, under exercising, caffeine. (I know. How will you live? Still one has to balance addictions with needs and wants.) If you wish to keep smoking, drinking and overeating, you might try sleeping on your back. Some say pillows and strap-on devices can help a great deal. Some claim to have had success with homeopathic remedies, available in health store and on the Internet.

Other remedies include throat sprays, nasal dilation, mouth breathing correction, mouthpiece devices and CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure). Throat sprays coat the soft tissues of the throat in lubricating oils, allowing the air to move more freely and lessening the noisy vibration. Techniques for nasal dilation include adhesive strips which hold open the airways of your nose, plastic devices to hold open your nostrils and sprays which reduce congestion or the swelling of nasal tissues. Many people would snore less if they would just learn to change the way they breathe; that is, learn to breathe through the nose. One must look into the products that will shut one’s mouth, possibly alleviating the level of town gossip in the process. Dentists can help here, by providing custom fitted devices which pull the lower jaw or tongue forward, thereby creating enough space in the throat to prevent breathing obstruction. Continuous Positive Airways Pressure is machinery, which blows air through your nose via a mask, preventing disruption of breathing and eliminating snoring.

Which is the best solution for me and thee? Only your hairdresser knows for sure. Check them all out carefully (when you are awake) and do research on each one. The Internet is a vast library of information and resources, limited only by the boundaries of one’s key search words. Get second, third and even fourth opinions before considering surgery. Don’t wait too long though. Hell hath no fury like the wrath of a non-snoring bed partner.

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