There was no doubt in her mind.
‘Your tonsils are good and strong, aren’t they?’ she said, as I opened wide and mumbled Aghh . . .
‘Actually, I had my tonsils out when I was 12,’ I told her.
Snoring is no longer an 'old person's problem'. In part, this is because two of the biggest factors that induce snoring are weight and alcohol
It was not a reassuring start. I was having a free consultation with a young woman at a Harley Street practice that specialises in non-invasive procedures.
I made the appointment because I snore — very loudly. And this private clinic promised to help.
The young woman was not a doctor, nor a nurse — the clinic called her a ‘counsellor’.
Perhaps not noticing an absence of tonsils is an easy mistake, but it did not fill me with confidence for the moment when the ‘counsellor’ then delivered her conclusion — I was the ‘perfect candidate’ for laser surgery to remove most of my uvula and some of the soft palate around it.
The uvula is the piece of flesh than dangles from the middle of the soft palate at the back of the throat.
Snoring can often be triggered by the uvula and soft palate either collapsing or relaxing to such an extent that it vibrates noisily when air rushes past it.
My ‘counsellor’ said the proposed operation would cost me £1,980 — paid upfront at least 20 days in advance.
If I were to go ahead with the procedure — an uvolopalatoplasty — I would feel pain for about 12 days, ‘like a very bad sore throat’.
I would have to refrain from alcohol during that time and eat lots of pureed food. There might be some post-operative bleeding.
It took a few days to get used to the Snorewizard mouthguard, but immediately it stopped my snoring
I should avoid swimming or intense exercise for a couple of weeks and would be susceptible to mild infections during the recovery period.
The good news? My snoring ‘should reduce by 60 per cent’.
But I was asked to sign a form accepting that because snoring is not necessarily throat-induced, the difference in my snoring might not be quite what I had hoped for.
I had no intention of having the operation. I was merely curious, a little suspicious.
The truth was that I’d already chanced upon my own solution several months previously — in the form of a plastic mouthguard costing less than £50.
There are an estimated 15 million snorers in the UK.
No one is keen to use the word ‘epidemic’ because there is so little statistical data about snoring, but everyone agrees it’s a growing issue — with more quick-fix surgical solutions to deal with it.
Snoring is no longer an ‘old person’s problem’. In part, this is because two of the biggest factors that induce snoring are weight and alcohol.
This kind of snoring is different from sleep apnoea, a serious medical condition where the airway narrows or closes altogether so that in extreme cases the patient stops breathing for several seconds.
More common in sleep apnoea is for the patient to choke themselves awake many times a night.
‘Most people with sleep apnoea snore, but not all those people who snore have sleep apnoea,’ explains Tim Quinnell, a consultant at the Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre at Papworth Hospital, Cambs.
Snoring might not be life-threatening, but its social effects can be devastating, leading to marital breakdown, depression, lack of libido and falling asleep while driving.
In my case, it became a growing issue between my wife and I. She used to prod, bash and kick me, but it made little difference.
I tried nose strips, throat sprays, lozenges, late-night herbal drinks. Nothing worked.
Most mornings, we woke up feeling grumpy and our conversation followed a familiar pattern.
There are an estimated 15 million snorers in the UK
She would call me selfish for not addressing the issue and I’d offer the weak defence that I wasn’t snoring on purpose.
Increasingly, I dreaded going to bed, knowing it would lead to a row.
Once, when we were staying in a swanky hotel, I woke to find my wife sleeping in the bath, wrapped in a duvet.
Then I spotted an advert for the Snorewizard mouthguard, complete with a money-back guarantee.
Like other ‘mandibular advancement devices’, it moves the jaw — and tongue — forward to improve the airflow.
Made of soft plastic, it looks similar to a sports mouthguard except it has a hole at the front which you breathe through.
It took a few days to get used to, but immediately it stopped my snoring.
I know this because on the occasions when I fell asleep without putting it in, my wife would read me the riot act.
The next step was to go down the ‘lifestyle’ route — I needed to lose weight, cut down on alcohol and strengthen the muscles around my neck.
Extra fat around the neck reduces the size of the airway behind the tongue, and alcohol acts as a powerful sedative, relaxing muscle tone at the back of the throat and making it more likely that you will snore.
It’s not been easy, but I’ve lost over a stone since Christmas. I have even taken to turning up at my local gym for 7am spinning classes three days a week.
As a result, my snoring has reduced dramatically (I now wear the mouthguard only three nights a week) and am even more sceptical about laser surgery.
This comes as no surprise to Marianne Davey, who co-founded the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association in 1991 while seeking a solution to her husband’s snoring.
She believes that operations to reduce snoring have a ‘less than 1 per cent’ success rate.
‘And even if it is successful, the snoring can easily come back because our bodies change as we get older,’ she says.
‘My advice is to do everything you can to avoid an operation and if you are thinking about it then you must have an endoscopy (where doctors put a camera down your throat) first to establish if your snoring is throat-based or tongue-based.’
With the former, the soft palate, or tissues in the airway, are implicated — with the latter, the tongue drops to the back of the throat, causing an obstruction.
Tim Quinnell adds: ‘Surgery has limited research evidence to support its effectiveness.
'It may help a minority, but success is not guaranteed and improvement is often only temporary.
‘It is not without side-effects — sometimes the voice changes.’
So my £50 mouthguard looks the better investment.
Then, the company behind the Snorewizard sent me an email about its so-called ‘Goodnight Pillow’, claiming it could reduce or eliminate my snoring without having to use the mouthguard. I tried it — and it’s clever.
Made with temperature-sensitive memory foam, its contoured shape cradles the neck in such a way that the chin is lifted, allowing the airwaves at the back of the throat to open.
Some nights it works better than others — but I could buy two dozen of these for the price of one uvolopalatoplasty.
Marianne Davey is more convinced by mouthguards.
‘Mouthguards are extremely effective for all kinds of snorers.
They help you to sleep with your mouth closed. If your mouth is open, all the air goes straight in and hits the structures that cause the snoring.’
Which in my case, dear ‘counsellor’, clearly does not include tonsils.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2288069/Snoring-Dont-spend-2-000-snoring-operation--just-mouthguard-change-pillow.html#ixzz2Mh77dRIu
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