By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Tossing restlessly on her pillow, Jean B. took some solace in knowing that at least she'd tried to make it work.
But after 28 years of connubial bliss, she could no longer tolerate what her husband had introduced to their marital bed.
"I was being victimized," says Jean, whose unhappiness with what transpired in the couple's boudoir every night for the past four years ultimately forced her to take drastic measures. "I reached a point where I had to say, 'I can't take this anymore! I have to be comfortable, too!'" She did what she had to do. No longer able to cope with her snoring husband's explosive breathing patterns, Jean sought slumber in another bedroom in the couple's north Phoenix home. That was eight months ago. Still, Jean did not go gentle into that good night's sleep.
"We'd tried everything," she says, explaining that her husband first began performing his dreadful sandman sonatas right after a substantial weight gain he experienced some years back. "We bought the nonsnoring pillow--I didn't see any improvement there. We tried doubling the pillows so he's almost sleeping in an elevated position--that didn't work, either." Even staggering sleep schedules provided no relief from her husband's earsplitting pillow squawk. "If I would purposely go to bed earlier, I'd automatically wake up when he came in later," she says, sighing. Safely ensconced in her own bedroom, Jean should be able to sleep easy these days. She's not. Instead, she wonders how she'll cope with her husband's snoring while cooped up in a series of hotel rooms during an upcoming vacation to Europe the couple has been planning for several years.
"We're sure hoping it works out," says Jean, who sounds less than 100 percent convinced. "If I wear earplugs that are supposed to hold out 22 decibels, I can still hear him. His snoring is like listening to a jackhammer all night. It's awful." @rule:
@body:Jean B. is not alone in her nocturnal torment. How many of us haven't fought for sleep while being aurally assaulted by something that sounds like a drowning hog fighting to keep its head above water?
Very few. Because of the sheer volume of chronic snorers--between 20 and 40 million Americans, up to half of them women--not many folks have escaped the displeasure of trying to sleep in the same bed, the same bedroom or (in some particularly severe cases) even under the same roof with a power snorer, only to be jolted out of bed by log-sawing that can wake the dead. But for those who've got the time and the money, the snore wars may be finally coming to an end. In the wake of a breakthrough technique developed in France, several Valley doctors are successfully treating snoring patients' throats with a relatively simple laser process. According to some practitioners, the laser procedure is even effective in treating some forms of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which the snorer wakes himself repeatedly during the night.
For snorers who don't relish going under the beam, a number of local dentists now offer a nonsurgical alternative. One of them is Phoenix dentist Enrico DiVito, who, in collaboration with a local manufacturer of orthodontic appliances, has developed a plastic snore guard that fits over a patient's teeth. Priced at $850, and looking similar to a football player's mouthpiece, the custom-fitted appliance repositions the lower jaw slightly, allowing the patient's air passageway in the throat to remain open during sleep. "This is reversible," says DiVito, who claims a success rate approaching 100 percent. "Surgery isn't. The worst that can happen with the snore guard is that you haven't taken medication and you haven't had surgery." @rule:
@body:So what causes this audio difficulty that can clear a bedroom, wreck a marriage and even induce thoughts of murder? Although the end result isn't nearly as much fun, it's basically the same principle that makes a rubber Whoopie Cushion work. During sleep, the tongue and tissues of the throat relax; air passing through this slack tunnel of flesh sets up vibrations that create the noise we know and hate as snoring. Live long enough and you, too, will almost certainly join the ranks of the sandman's vocal majority. Although young adult men who snore chronically outnumber women who do so by a margin of ten to one, that sex differential disappears almost entirely by the age of 60. Even children are not immune; because tonsils (one potential source of snoring problems) are not removed as routinely as they once were, a new generation of boys and girls is snoring up a storm with the best of them.
As recently as the early Seventies, loud log-sawing was generally considered to be a nuisance at worst, the sort of quasi-comical problem that provided fodder for Three Stooges gags and "Dear Abby" columns. But with mushrooming research into sleep-related problems over the past 20 years (there are currently more than 200 sleep-disorder clinics in the United States, as opposed to the 20-some operating a decade ago), snoring has finally been taken seriously.
"Snoring can be a socially destructive problem," says Dr. Bernard Levine, director of the sleep-disorder center at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. "In many patients, it's terribly severe--enough to destroy relationships and people's ability to stay together."
In some cases, snoring not only jeopardizes domestic happiness, but life itself. The medical community now recognizes snoring as a possible symptom of sleep apnea, a potentially fatal condition in which a relaxed tongue and throat tissues close off the windpipe, stopping a person's breathing. Though few people actually die on the spot (the body monitors oxygen levels during sleep, momentarily waking most apnea sufferers), the condition takes it toll.