Snoring: A tennis ball can save your love life

by Denise Wagner on December 30, 2012

Some Wimbledon fans will not only be dreaming of tennis balls this month, they may feel one pressing into their backs – particularly if they have a tendency to snore.

 The June edition of The Practitioner magazine has a comprehensive review of the medical implications and treatment of snoring. The report, written by Dr Patricia Stone of the Lung Function Unit, Wythenshawe, Manchester, includes the suggestion that sufferers should stitch a tennis ball into the back of tight-fitting pyjamas.

This, one of the age-old devices to stop people lying on their backs in bed, is apparently a useful means of preventing snoring because it can alter the sleep position even more effectively than a dig in the ribs from a partner.

Snoring is only a symptom. The doctor’s role is to find out why the patient is snoring, and then, if possible, to treat the underlying condition. Snoring is important, and there are good reasons why it needs treatment.

Without a comfortable night’s sleep the patient will not be able to give of their best the next day, either at work or socially, and they may fall asleep at the wheel. Also, they are more likely to suffer high blood pressure and its consequences, including heart attacks and strokes.

The other reason for seeking treatment is that loud snoring is unlikely to endear the snorer to others, especially a regular partner. Snoring, and other nocturnal noises, may start as a joke and become a tolerable nuisance, but after a short while it can cause serious marital disharmony.

Dr Stone’s first two suggestions to heavy snorers, other than to get busy with the sewing kit and tennis balls, is to lose weight and to drink less alcohol. She suggests that drinking should be avoided after 6pm.

Weight reduction is important. A Michelin-man shape is not only the result of rolls of subcutaneous fat but is related to the fat deposited around the abdomen and elsewhere, including the neck.

Additional fat in the neck, which is known as retropharyngeal fat, acts like a soft tumor pressing on and narrowing the upper airways, thereby increasing the tendency to snore.

Alcohol has an influence on snoring but, whether patients should avoid it entirely in the evenings or only take pre-dinner drinks, must be a matter of individual experiment.

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