It’s funny how, when you’re in a quiet public area, some dope dozes off and suddenly lets out a jolting, jumbo-jet-taking-off kind of a snore. It’s a lot less funny when this is real bedtime scenario for you—like lying down next to a busy airport runway, with the roaring jumbo-jet engine just six inches away from your ear. Every. Single. Night.
Snoring may seem like a harmless condition, but it becomes no laughing matter when it ends up affecting your health and wreaking havoc on your relationship with the person who sleeps next to you.
Snoring is the result of obstructed airflow when one goes into slumber, explains Dr. Regina Muñoz of the Belo Medical Group.
There are many other factors that contribute to snoring, including the physical anatomy of the person, she adds.
A low soft palate causes a narrowed airway, and an elongated uvula—that pink stalactite at the back of your throat—can cause vibration when a person is asleep.
Blocked nasal passages of chronic allergy sufferers may also be offenders.
“When a person is overweight,” the doctor adds, “he/she may have extra tissues at the back of the throat that also narrow the airways.”
When the muscle tissues at the back of the throat are too relaxed or have poor muscle tone, the person tends to snore, since we tend to breathe through our mouth when we sleep.
This is aggravated when a person drinks alcohol at bedtime, or when a person is very tired or sleep-deprived, conditions that further relax the throat muscles.
An individual’s sleeping position may also contribute. Sleeping on one’s back produces a loud snore as gravity causes the throat muscles to collapse.
Sleeping next to a snorer can drive a person nuts and feel irrational hatred toward the party disrupting his/her rest every night.
Short of pressing a pillow over the offender’s face—or leaving him/her for good— there are known medical interventions to reduce snoring, including surgical and invasive procedures to correct anatomical abnormalities to widen the airway.
Last week, Belo Medical Group unveiled the Fotona Nightlase, a laser treatment that aims to tighten the uvula, soft palate and the surrounding tissues to reduce “palatal snoring.”
The laser, originally used only by dental professionals until 2014, is a “safe and efficacious” treatment to reduce snoring, according to Dr. Jernej Kukovich, who brought the technology to the Philippines from Europe.
The keyword here is “reduce.” Belo patients have had their snoring reduced from 20 to 80 percent, says Doctor Muñoz, whose mother has undergone Nightlase. “Her snoring has reduced significantly.”
It is a quick procedure that’s “minimally invasive,” says Doctor Kukovich, and promises fast results, with “50 percent reduction after the first session” in some patients.
It’s claimed to be pain-free, with some patients reporting only a feeling of soreness of the throat post-treatment.
Nightlase requires no anesthesia and is an outpatient procedure that takes about 15 to 30 minutes per session. The course of treatment requires 3-5 sessions, spread out in two months, and costs about P35,000 per session.
The results last for 12 to 18 months, says Doctor Muñoz. It’s initially available at the Medical Plaza Makati branch of Belo Medical Clinic. (Call 8192356.)
The laser is designed to stimulate collagen formation in the mucosal area, which results in the tightening of the mucosal tissue in the oropharynx—the center part of the throat—and opens the airways.
“We brought Nightlase in with male patients in mind, because snoring is a condition more frequent in men,” says Dr. Vicki Belo, founder of Belo Medical Group.
According to the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org), men are likelier to snore or suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that causes the individual to experience breathing pauses in their sleep, which is a potentially more serious condition. Sufferers of sleep apnea are usually very loud snorers.
Not all snorers, however, suffer from sleep apnea, says Doctor Muñoz. While snoring itself is a source of nuisance and discord between couples, sufferers of sleep apnea are also at a greater risk of heart conditions, hypertension and stroke.
Doctor Muñoz says Nightlase is safe for a majority of individuals and may improve sleep apnea conditions. But at pre-assessment, the patient is checked for the severity of his/her sleep apnea, and if there are other aggravating conditions. Patients with a BMI (body mass index) of over 30 may not be fit to undergo the treatment.