“Laugh and the world laughs with you. Smile and you sleep alone.” So wrote British author Anthony Burgess. But for the 25 percent of adults who have a chronic snoring problem, sleeping solo is only a small drawback compared with the more serious health problems that may arise from this often satirized malady.
The condition is caused by breathing obstructions in the airways of sufferers, As air reaches the passages at the back of the threat, it is obstructed by the collapsible structures where the tongue meets the soft palate, from which dangles the loose piece of flesh known as the uvula. When these body parts strike each other and vibrate, the characteristic grunts and wheezes of snoring are produced.
This obstruction may arise from a number of factors: poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat which can result from drinking alcohol , taking sleep-inducing drugs, or just a very deep sleep. This leads to the tongue falling backwards into the airway or the throat muscles: contracting inwards. Another cause is excessive bulkiness of throat tissue-large tonsils or adenoids, for example-or simply overly fleshy neck as a result of obesity. Sometimes the structure of the palate or uvula may be unusually long and both may dangle too far into the airway. or there may be a blockage in the nasal airways from causes such as a cold, hay fever, or allergies.
In extreme cases, the condition of sleep apnea may occur. This happens when loud snoring is interrupted by frequent periods of totally obstructed breathing. Sufferers may stop breathing for 10 seconds at a time, up to seven times in an hour. Sleep apnea patients are never able to fully relax arid gain the benefits of deep sleep. In the short term, this leads to daytime sleepiness and impaired job performance and in the long term, to high blood pressure and enlarged heart.
The United States Patents Office has over 300 anti-snoring aid: registered, but none have proven totally effective. Surgery has also been developed for extreme cases, but this is invasive and costly. Recently, however, Dr. Scott E. Brietzke has developed a new technique which he believes may eradicate snoring for most sufferers. Brietzke's injection snoreplasty involves an injection of sodium tetradecyl sulfate into the soft palate. This chemical promotes the formation of scar tissue which stiffens the structures at the back of the throat, thus preventing the fluttering of the palate that creates snoring.
Of the 27 patients treated so far with Brietzke's technique, only two responded that snoring is still a problem, As for side effects, the patients reported that they experienced mild discomfort similar to a sore throat that lasted between two and three days, but that it did not interfere with their work. Although an injection into the palate sounds painful, even the most sensitive patient rated the discomfort as merely a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Besides, who wouldn't be prepared to suffer a little short-term pain for the chance of a quiet and restful sleep?