If snoring is the reason for your partner departing your bed, there is hope, and your dentist may be able to help. In North America, it is estimated that ninety million people have breathing problems which cause snoring, or more serious, sleep apnea. On average, 30% of women and 40% of men snore. By the age of sixty the incidence increases to 40% for women and 60% for men.
The effect of this snoring can be disastrous for the relationship or marriage. Twenty-three percent of partnered adults sleep alone due to snoring or restlessness of their spouse. Seventy percent of couples with a snorer actually sleep in separate rooms.
What are the causes of snoring and what can be done to correct it? Snoring can be related to excessive weight, to sleeping on one’s back, consuming alcohol within several hours of going to bed or a genetic predisposition. A constriction of the airway occurs during sleep, which allows the vibrations that we hear as "snoring”. There are a number of new dental appliances that help to open the airway and reduce snoring. These can be quite tolerable and much less bulky than the earlier anti-snoring devices. These appliances no longer lock the jaw into one position. One is able to yawn, talk and even sip water while wearing them.
A consultation with your dentist will let you know whether such an appliance is indicated. Your dentist should establish that you do not have sleep apnea or refer you to a physician to have this evaluated.
In sleep apnea, the individual stops breathing for ten seconds or more. This can happen up to several hundred times a night and can lead to many serious health problems. These same dental appliances, however, can be very effective in sleep apnea once it has been diagnosed. The cost of these appliances is roughly equal to a weekend away for a couple and the benefits are obvious. If you have dental insurance these appliances may even be partially covered.
Other treatments for snoring include reducing weight to the ideal level. Sewing a tennis ball into the back of a pajama top can help induce the sleeper to avoid lying on his back. Reducing alcohol consumption before bed can help as well. Your physician may also suggest several surgical therapies which can help reduce snoring as well. Get that partner back into your bed!
Dr. Larry Hill graduated from UBC Dental School in 1987. He practices in Downtown Nanaimo with his partner Dr. San Mahara. Dr. Hill is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.