25 April 2018
With this week being National Stop Snoring Week (23-27 April) Debbie Thorpe of Spire Norwich Hospital catches up with Mr Junaid Hanif, Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant to discuss a condition that may leave more than the sufferer with sleepless nights.
Does your partner snore? Or, perhaps you are awoken in the night by your partner’s jabbing elbow in an attempt to get you to stop snoring. Well, you are not alone. It is estimated the majority of men snore at least occasionally, over 30% of men snore regularly and at least 50% of men over the age of 60 snore. Women can also be heroic snorers but they are less likely to snore than men.
Talking about snoring often leads to jokes and ridicule and can be a source of embarrassment, but snoring is no laughing matter. It causes poor quality sleep and disturbed sleep for the snorer and the partner. As well as being socially embarrassing, it can lead to marital and relationship disharmony.
The majority of patients attending Mr Hanif’s Snoring Clinic at Spire Norwich Hospital are sleeping in separate rooms most nights, putting a real strain on their relationship. Not sleeping together causes problems with intimacy and poor sexual relationship and is the commonest complaint by these patients. One patient, seeking treatment, attended the clinic accompanied by his fiancée, who had refused to move in with him due to his snoring. The snoring is also a source of embarrassment when staying with friends and family or when going on holiday. Numerous patients attend the Snoring Clinic admitting to avoiding holidays or, if they can afford it, booking two hotel rooms when planning a holiday.
The poor quality of sleep for both the snorer and their partner may also lead to sleepiness during the daytime and poor concentration, which could lead to work problems. It can also be a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (a condition where you stop breathing whilst sleeping), which may need treating to avoid more serious conditions later on in life such as heart disease and stroke. Snoring can be a disabling condition for the snorer and their families and it deserves serious consideration and treatment.
So, what causes snoring?
Mr Hanif explains: “Snoring is caused by turbulent airflow at the back of the throat whilst you are asleep and your throat muscles are relaxed. This turbulence causes the floppy parts of the throat to vibrate and produce the snoring sound. The two main floppy parts of the throat are the soft palate (dangling like a curtain at the back of the throat) and the back of the tongue. There are a number of reasons why you may snore. Age can lead to parts of the throat to become more ‘floppy’ making these tissues more susceptible to vibrate. If you are overweight, your throat tissues are also less firm and more inclined to vibrate when you breathe. This is more likely to happen if you have a particularly floppy palate and a large uvula (the dangly bit drooping from the soft palate) or a very bulky back of the tongue.”
What can be done about the snoring?
“Most people have tried the sensible things such as weight loss and if you have big tonsils you may need an operation to address this. Avoidance of alcohol in the evenings may also help. Most of the ‘cures’ on the internet are often ineffective or can be unpleasant to use such as mouth guards. So what is left that is successful and acceptable? Surgery to stiffen the palate and reduce the size of the palate can lead to cessation of snoring or significantly reduce it in the majority of patients. It is important to exclude Obstructive Sleep Apnoea in those people where there is any suspicion of having this condition, by performing an overnight Sleep Study.”
Is Palate Surgery the answer for you?
“The procedure of Radiofrequency or Coblation palatoplasty is performed on patients who snore due to problems with a bulky or long soft palate. The procedure uses low-power, low-temperature radio frequency energy to heat small areas inside the muscle of the soft palate to create a scar. These scars stiffen the soft palate in the same way that batons in a sail reduce the flapping of the sail.
“The procedure can be performed with the patient awake, sitting upright and usually takes about 15 minutes. It involves numbing the palate with a local anaesthetic injection and then a metallic probe is inserted in the soft palate, which causes small areas of heat leading to scarring and stiffening. Patients are able to go home immediately and post-operative pain is usually mild to moderate, often controlled with ibuprofen and paracetamol, and lasts up to a couple of weeks. A soft diet can be eaten the same day.
“No significant complications have been reported. An improvement in the snoring usually takes around three months, the period needed for the palate to stiffen. After a thorough clinical evaluation Mr Hanif may be able to give an accurate rate of success for each, individual patient.”
How do you find out if you have Sleep Apnoea?
“If you have breathing problems during sleep and perhaps stop breathing when asleep then you may have Sleep Apnoea. This is a condition where there is a blockage in the throat leading to episodes where breathing stops when asleep. This condition can lead to excessive sleepiness during the daytime because of very poor quality sleep. The only way to diagnose Sleep Apnoea is by having a Sleep Study. This is an investigation that is undertaken at home by connecting up to a device measuring many parameters such as blood oxygen level, airflow through the nose and mouth etc. It’s a straight forward investigation which can be performed on anyone suspected of having this condition.”
Mr Hanif is able to arrange sleep studies so if you would like further information or to make a private appointment with Mr Junaid Hanif please call 01603 255 614. For further details about snoring and sleep apnoea visit Mr Hanif’s website www.sleepandsnoring.co.uk.
All surgery carries an element of risk and the content of this page is provided for general information only. It should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional.