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Curb snoring and sleep better

 | January 13, 2013

Snoring can be such a relationship killer. I know people who have even broke up because of snoring.

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I remember some years ago, this Datin friend of mine was inquiring about a cure for snoring with hypnosis. She is a renowned specialist doctor and often travels with high-ranking government officials.

She told me how she found it so embarrassing when she dozes off in her plane seat and very quickly her snoring drowns the entire business class cabin. She told me then that she seriously was considering surgery to reduce her snoring, even if it has its risk. She could not stand the embarrassment.

Snoring can be such a relationship killer. I know people who have even broke up because of snoring. Imagine the horror of a newlywed bride waking up in the middle of her first night to hear her husband snoring like a steam-powered train. What a grim fact this can be, if she is a light sleeper and now all her life, she has to cope with this snoring of her husband. If only she had known this fact earlier?

It is sometimes said that snoring is not a problem of the snorer, but a problem for those that sleep with them!

Although hypnotherapy can be used to enable partners to tune-out the sound of snoring, it is not a primary intervention as there are many more factors for consideration. Having ruled out and attended to physical and medical causes, hypnotherapy can be used to adjust the snorers sleeping position and breathing actions.

Where associated insomnia is a problem for the partner this should be dealt with as a separate issue. Where weight is an issue, this can also be addressed successfully using hypnotherapy.

What is snoring?

Snoring is noise produced from the soft palate and other parts of the upper respiratory tract. It can be quite disturbing. It is mostly common in men, especially older, middle-aged and obese men.

Around 40% of all adults snore. Snoring can be very annoying for a partner who is kept awake by the noise. Often, because of this, couples sleep in separate rooms.

I remember how Dr Jack Gibson, a FRCS surgeon and clinical hypnotherapist in Ireland, told me how he used to walk around his ward late at night, suggesting to a snoring patient without waking him or her to tone their palate and silence their snoring.

Gibson said that it can be an uncomfortable experience for a patient recovering from surgery to be sleeping beside another patient who snores.

What causes snoring?

Snoring in children is often caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Some kids with buck teeth or a very small lower jaw can mean that the tongue is too large for the space available.

A very long soft palate (the soft part of the back of the roof of the mouth) will narrow the space between it and the back of the throat and can contribute to the snoring problem.

Also, restricted air passage through the nose, for example because of a deviated nasal septum (the cartilage which divides the two nostrils) can cause a vacuum when the person inhales. This can cause snoring.

The soft tissues of the upper respiratory tract will close more easily and vibrations of the palate can occur. This is also why people snore more when they have a cold. Nasal adenoids, nasal allergies and nasal tumors can also limit their passage of air through the nose.

Often obesity results in fatty tissue pressing on the upper respiratory tract and causing it to narrow. Most obese people snore.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?

The symptoms of “apnoea” refer to short spells when breathing stops. In obstructive sleep apnoea, the throat is sucked closed during sleep.

OSA occurs in about 4% of middle-aged people. Normally when we breathe in, the pressure in our throat will drop below the outside atmospheric pressure. This is why air moves into our lungs. The higher pressure in the surrounding tries to squeeze our throat closed as we breathe in but the muscles that open the throat resist this.

However, when we fall asleep, these throat opening muscles relax so that the throat gets narrower each time we inhale. If the throat is narrowed to a slit, the air flow is disturbed so the audible vibration of snoring is heard.

If the throat is so narrowed that it is partially or completely blocked, the sleeper will fight for breath until they wake up. The apnoea often ends with a loud snore or gasp, along with movements of the whole body.

This awakening is sufficient to make their throat opening muscles work so they can breathe in again, but they usually fall asleep again quickly that they don’t remember it happening.

In OSA, this cycle repeats itself throughout the night as the muscles relax and the throat blocks off again. During sleep, intervals between the breaths (apnoeic spells) or the reduction of the depth of breathing (hypopnoea) lead to a decrease of oxygen in the blood and will cause the afflicted person to wake up many times during the night.

OSA patients are often observed to be restless sweaty sleepers and in the morning they complain that they don’t feel rested.

Some people wake up before their throat muscles have recovered and are quite frightened by the sensation of choking, but then breathing will always resume after a few seconds. Their bed partner may feel that they should wake them up when apnoea occurs, but this is not always necessary.

People with such condition also expend more energy than average on breathing during the night. Their quality of sleep therefore decreases and leads to sleepiness during the day.

Their urge to sleep can be very strong and such people have been known to fall asleep during conversations, meals, even when driving a car or when surrounded by dangerous machinery.

What causes OSA?

There are many causes to OSA but the main reason for this problem is having usually a throat that is naturally narrower than normal. This will not cause trouble with your swallowing or breathing when you are awake.

The possible causes for such narrowing include being overweight, as men especially can put down fat in neck, which makes their throat narrower.

Other factors that cannot be avoided include heredity – some families have smaller throats, and ageing makes our throats become smaller.

When we drink alcohol, it relaxes the throat opening muscles so it will make snoring and apnoea worse. Certain types of allergy tablets (antihistamines), or some sleeping pills will also have this effect.

How can OSA be helped?

Other people will notice long intervals of not breathing during their sleep, terminated by a loud snore or gasp along with movements of the whole body and extreme sleepiness in the day.

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is often used to control sleep apnea and the snoring associated with it. To keep the airway open, a device pumps a controlled stream of air through a flexible hose to a mask worn over the nose, mouth, or both.

Surgery is also available for correcting social snoring. Some procedures, such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty attempt to widen the airway by removing tissues in the back of the throat, including the uvula and pharynx.

These surgeries are quite invasive, however, and there are risks of adverse side effects.

The most dangerous risk is that enough scar tissue can form within the throat as a result of the incisions to make the airway narrower than it was prior to surgery, diminishing the airspace in the velopharynx.

Scarring is an individual trait, so it is difficult for a surgeon to predict how much a person might be predisposed to scarring.

Currently, the American Medical Association does not approve of the use of lasers to perform operations on the pharynx or uvula as reported in Wikipedia.

What methods are available to curb snoring?

Almost all treatments for snoring revolve around clearing the blockage in the breathing passage. This is the reason snorers are advised to lose weight to stop fat from pressing on the throat; stop smoking as it weakens and clogs the throat and sleep on their side to prevent the tongue from blocking the throat.

Other treatment that are available, ranges from over-the-counter aids such as nasal sprays, nasal strips or nose clips, lubricating sprays, and “anti-snore” clothing and pillows.

We can also explore the natural complementary medicine and remedies. These can be in the form of herbal pills, acupressure devices or specialised acupuncture.

I remember that a wrong sleeping position made me snore. Sleeping with too many pillows can stretch and narrow the air passage. Use one pillow to avoid it. Also, lying on the back can cause snoring. So, a change in sleeping position can be a help.

Snoring can cause significant relationship issues, as well as health effects of sleep deficit for the partner. Earplugs may facilitate good sleep for people sharing the same bedroom with someone who snores.

External earmuffs are not designed to sleep with. Technically, it all boils down to whether your partner is a light sleeper.

A simple hypnotic method to curb snoring

You need your partner’s help here. Get him or her to press their finger on your shoulder (the side they can easily touch you when sleeping). Close your eyes, as their finger presses your shoulder with light pressure.

Ask them to repeat, four times this sentence, “As you sleep deeply, you listen completely to my voice without waking. You now listen to your snore without waking. Your subconscious tones your palates and your snore is gone.”

I use to wonder why there was giggling from my wife then, at night. She was tickled by the fact that each time I snored, she just touched my shoulder “spot” and the snoring stop immediately. She said it was my “anti-snore” button. Try it out and have a great night’s sleep.

Julian is a London trained subconscious specialist with Hypno-Station. He is Malaysia’s most renowned clinical hypnotherapist, media personality, columnist, event host and book author. He can be contacted at [email protected].


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