To the list of disgusting things our partners must endure, a list that already includes scratching, urinating, spitting, farting, sweating, belching, drinking and overeating, add what may be the most disruptive of all: snoring.
That’s right. About two-thirds of the nation’s chronic snorers are men, which suggests that a sizable percentage of the people listening to their noisy airways are women. Snorers are at their loudest during allergy season (between now and December), when people’s noses are even more clogged than usual, doctors say.
The Man Page sat down with Dr. Paul Fulmer, who heads the Houston office of The Snoring Center, to discuss men who snore, the effect it has on their relationships and what can be done about it.
MP: Men have heard about prostate cancer and heart disease, should we be adding snoring to our growing list of serious health concerns?
PF: Well, not everyone realizes that 23 percent of all couples don’t sleep together because of snoring. Snoring is really more of a social disturbance. It creates all these issues – like people ending up sleeping in other rooms – which mess with the dynamics in a family. And the second-hand snorer, as I like to call them, is losing about an hour of sleep at night. It’s really a quality of life issue.
MP:So snoring isn’t so much a medical concern as a social one?
PF: Not exactly. Snoring can lead to sleep apnea, which is a serious medical condition. It can also disrupt our daytime functioning by altering our sleep patterns, which can also lead to more weight gain. The biggest thing I see, however, is embarrassment. Snorers are afraid to fall asleep on the plane. I have people tell me all the time, “You know, I’m afraid to fall asleep because when I wake up people are laughing.”
MP: Are you saying snorers are socially stigmatized?
PF: Think about guys going on hunting trips. They’ll put all the snorers in a certain place or they won’t get invited at all. I had a guy last week who was taking his son on a Boy Scout trip and, even in his camp, everyone was upset with him. Keep in mind they’re out camping in the middle of nowhere, and people are still upset. Snorers kind of stop doing certain things because they’re afraid they’re going to disrupt people.
MP:Snoring isn’t limited to men, obviously, so why do we account for two-thirds of the cases out there?
PF: It’s probably weight gain more than anything. Wherever cardiologists are busy, you’re going to have a problem. If you have a population of overweight people, you’re going to have snorers. Other times, it’s anatomical. Their dad snored, their mom snored, their palate is long, they’ve got a big tongue, their nose is obstructed. Sometimes it just comes down to genes.
MP:Besides weight gain, is there anything else that makes a guy more at risk for snoring?
PF: The typical guy is middle-aged, but I literally see all ages. I see retired guys, people starting new lives with a new person. I’ve had people come in and say, “I need to get fixed because this is it or she’s leaving me.” What’s interesting is that we have seen that people with low testosterone, who start taking medicine for it, can often make their snoring worse.
MP: In the past, some snorers turned to surgery, which cut up their throat and kept them out of work for weeks. The Snoring Center specializes in the pillar procedure to combat snoring. Can you explain how the procedure works?
PF: It involves the placement of woven inserts into the soft palate. Over time, the body’s natural tissue response to the inserts increases the structural integrity of the soft palate, which reduces the vibration that causes snoring.
MP:Are the inserts permanent?
PF: It’s a permanent suture, just like you had a hernia surgery – same material. We pop them in, have you drink a little ice water and your throat gets back to feeling normal. It takes 10 or 15 minutes to do the whole thing. You have normal diet, normal activity and normal speech in the same day. Most people go back to work after they get it done. Your throat is sore for a day or two.
MP:How do you know if your snoring is serious enough to warrant the procedure, which runs about $3,000 and is not covered by insurance?
PF: Come in, and we can talk. We can usually get you in within a week or so. It’s not a big deal. I can look at you and I can tell you, “If you can just lose 25 pounds, you’re going to be all right.” Sometimes the solution is that easy.
MP:Are men often reluctant to deal with their snoring problem?
PF: We get a lot of spouses who drag their partners in here. Here’s an important point: Even if you feel like you’re fine, it’s disrupting your relationship. We do enough bad things as men to mess up our relationship with our spouse. If you can do something about this – and your spouse can get better sleep – she’s not going to be as cranky.
MP:Final question Doc: Do you snore?
PF: No, no, not me (laughing). But if I did, I would get the pillar procedure done.