No Common Cure For The Common Snorer

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Even to those with the most exacting standards, I probably seem like the perfect guy.

I'm tall. I've got a job. I almost always use silverware when I eat in fine restaurants. I possess exquisite taste in Hawaiian print shirts. And that's just for starters.

But the fact is this: I am not perfect.

I know. That confession surely sounds like false modesty to those who have been lucky enough to bask in the reflection of my glory. But it's true. And I am man enough to admit my imperfection which, come to think of it, is yet another reason why I seem so perfect.

At least to those who know me by day. To those who have known me by night ... well, that's another matter entirely.

I am a snorer.

Not a light, occasional snorer, mind you. The nocturnal sounds I emit have been likened to some of the higher-decibel sound effects used in the drive-in movie classic, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

On the bright side, it doesn't bother me. On the not-so-bright -side, it has driven some of my significant others to hardware stores, fantasizing about re-enacting some of the more violent scenes from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Back on the bright side, I am hardly alone in my imperfection.

According to Dr. Kent Cox, one of several ear, nose and throat specialists in the Payson area, an estimated 45 percent of the population snores at least occasionally. But that's not the bad news. Up to 80 percent of their bed partners end up sleeping in different rooms or, if the problem is bad enough, one assumes, different houses, cities and states.

Not a recipe for a solid, healthy relationship.

Here's one more fun snoring fact: Almost 85 percent of snorers exceed 38 decibels of sound, which is equivalent to the noise of light highway traffic.

But it gets worse, Dr. Cox points out.

"Snoring is often a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder," he said. "Apnea sufferers are often diagnosed as depressed, when really they are simply exhausted and cannot function properly. Sleep apnea raises your blood pressure, reduces the flow of oxygen to your brain and can, at worst, lead to stroke, heart attack and death."

In other words, this is not something one should ignore, even if one sleeps right through it without a clue that it's going on.

Finally, Cox said, there's evidence that snoring is not only a symptom of apnea, it can eventually cause it. Any snoring is a sign that your breathing is disrupted otherwise you wouldn't make that noise. Your body is having to work harder than it should to breathe. As you get older, and put on weight and lose muscle tone, Cox said, snoring can lead to periods of not breathing at night. That's sleep apnea.

Recent research also indicates that snoring may also lead to diabetes because as it reduces the intake of oxygen, it triggers the body to produce more catecholamines, which in turn leads to insulin resistance, a known precursor of diabetes.

So the evidence is piling up: even snoring which seems to bother no one should be treated.

Snoring Remedies

Snoring occurs, Dr. Cox said, when the soft tissues at the back of the throat vibrate as air passes over them. People who breathe through their mouths and sleep on their backs are the most likely to snore.

A cursory Internet search for "snoring remedies" shows that there are as many so-called cures as there are snorers. You'll find treatments involving pillows that encourage the snorer to sleep on his side ... pajamas that make it uncomfortable to sleep on the back ... various devices to keep the nasal passages open ... strips that stick-on outside the nose and supposedly hold the nostrils open ... and an endless collection of "homeopathic" throat sprays with names like SnoreEndz, NoSnore, StopSnore, SnoreKill, and SnoreNoMore.

Dr. Cox laughed derisively at this list of snore merchandising.

"If any of those actually work, I've never heard about it," he said. "But who knows? Some of them might help. I'm a surgeon, so naturally I believe in surgical solutions. But I also believe that patients should investigate all of their options."

In Cox's view, the solution for my snoring problem would be laser surgery to shorten my uvula that little thing that hangs down from the back of the mouth and keep it from vibrating so loudly during nighttime breathing.

"It won't eliminate your snoring," he said, "but it will help a lot."

The only drawbacks, Dr. Cox said, would be a sore throat that would last for a couple of weeks. But not just any, run-of-the-cold-season sore throat.

"I've seen it make grown men cry" he said. "It's pretty bad. For those two weeks, you'll wonder why on earth you decided to have this surgery."

Dr. Cox didn't want to quote a price, but according to various Internet sources, the cost can range from $500 to $2,500.

Fully armed with all the information and straight professional advice I needed, I made my decision.

I decided to go home and sleep on it.

And then, when I am fully rested, maybe start with a $1.99 bottle of SnoreNoMore.

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