Is snoring wrecking your marriage?
A hotel chain has introduced 'snore absorption rooms' to help their guests sleep more soundly. So, just how many of us keep our partners awake at night, asks Chrissie Russell
'Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone," as someone, presumably with first-hand experience, once observed. But now, a new hotel initiative means to make sure snorers aren't the only ones who get to sleep.
The Crown Plaza chain has rolled out novel measures to ensure noisy sleepers don't disturb the slumber of their more tranquil guests. Snore Patrols will roam floors designated as 'quiet zones' and knock on the doors of those breaking the desired decibel level.
If snorers can't keep the volume down, they'll be removed from the quiet zone and perhaps taken to one of the high-tech snore-absorption rooms which are also being introduced complete with soundproofed walls, anti-snoring pillows and white noise machines.
The idea of a bell-boy patrolling the halls, ear to every door, ready to interrupt the slumber of anti-social sleepers may sound like a joke but for thousands of people snoring is no laughing matter.
Some 45% of men and 30% of women snore habitually. A survey carried out last year revealed that a disrupted night's sleep caused by a partner's snoring accounted for one in five Irish couples arguing, while 20% simply picked up their pillows and went off to sleep elsewhere.
One in 10 said no sleep meant no sex. Snoring is definitely a noisy passion killer.
Even celebrities are not exempt. Earlier this year Tom Cruise reportedly turned one of his guest rooms into a sound- proof 'snoratorium' where he can snore as loud as he wants without disturbing wife Katie Holmes in her room next door.
And in 2008, Liam Neeson laughed off his newly earned status as 'the world's favourite Irish sex symbol', saying his wife would find the title funny considering his decidedly un-sexy habit of snoring.
But some couples find it less amusing. Dentist Darren Cromey's loud snoring wasn't disturbing his own sleep but it was affecting his wife and friends.
He says: "My wife's always been a light sleeper but even through her ear plugs she could hear me. She would give me a few thumps to try and make me shut up but most mornings she woke up exhausted or else one of us ended up in the spare room.
"Even on rugby trips away I was aware that whoever shared a room with me looked like they'd drawn the short straw."
Somewhat ashamed of the fact that he was responsible for so many hostile stares over the breakfast table, Darren (37) looked into treatment.
There's a wealth of over-the-counter remedies out there, from acupressure rings and electric shock bracelets to nasal sprays and nose strips.
But a survey carried out by a consumer watchdog revealed that two thirds of sufferers found shop-bought solutions didn't work. Darren found the same thing.
He said: "I tried a load of them but they were all useless. Then I saw an ad for Solutions4Snoring on the web. I went to a clinic got fitted for a device and it worked."
The device in question was a Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS) which pulls the lower jaw and fatty tissue round the neck forwards making the airway larger. It's one of several mouth-guard type solutions on the market that target snoring by trying to widen the airway.
Darren -- and more importantly his wife, Susan -- were so impressed with the results that Darren now provides MAS treatment to patients at his practice at Walkinstown Dental Care.
"It's not the most comfortable thing, but it works for me," he says. "My wife is deliriously happy with the results and makes sure I have it in every night before we go to sleep, but at least we're both in the same bed now!"
Anecdotally, Darren finds most of his snoring patients are middle-aged and overweight, like himself. The treatment costs around €450 and from clients he hears the same woes of the bad effect snoring has had on relationships.
He says: "A lot of people joke about snoring but it's something that can make people very angry and upset. People are reluctant to ask for help, though, because they're embarrassed and it's not a well publicised problem."
But what causes some people to snore while others manage to sleep silently? Snoring is most commonly caused by the exchange of a large amount of air through a narrow space which causes the tissues in the nose and throat to vibrate noisily.
Sometimes it's down to a soft throat palate or tissue obstructing the airway in which case surgery could be an option.
But according to sleep expert Patrick McKeown from snoring.ie, what most snorers need -- more than surgery, nasal sprays or mouth apparatus -- is to go on an 'air diet' and learn to breathe calmly through the nose.
"Snoring is caused by open-mouth breathing and trying to force a large volume of air through a narrow space," he explains. "Training yourself to take smaller breaths and through the nose is all many people need to combat snoring."
The breathing exercises, called the Buteyko Method, are taught by Patrick not just to middle-aged men with angry wives but to all age groups, even children, to combat snoring, breathing problems and asthma.
"A huge mix of people come to the clinics," says Patrick. "Most people associate snoring with being middle-aged and overweight but children are also affected and there's a link between children snoring and developing ADHD. It can also be a symptom of a more serious issue like sleep apnoea."
Obstructive sleep apnoea is when the soft tissue of the throat relaxes and collapses during sleep, blocking the airway and causing the sleeper to stop breathing for around 10 seconds. It causes disrupted sleep and often elevated blood pressure, hypertension, tiredness and irritability. More than just damaging a relationship, snoring could be damaging your health.
Ciara (name changed) was diagnosed with sleep apnoea a year ago. She had always had a problem with snoring but also found it hard to stay awake during the day, falling asleep at her desk on one occasion. She says: "Every morning I would wake up and not feel rested. It felt like I went from work, to the couch to bed and to sleep, yet I was always tired. I went to my doctor and was diagnosed with sleep apnoea."
Since attending the snoring.ie clinic, which she found while looking for a cure on the internet, Ciara, who is in her 50s and overweight, has learned to change her breathing.
She says: "I find now that I'm sleeping better and I have the energy to exercise which hopefully will help me lose the weight which contributed to the sleep apnoea in the first place.
"Thanks to identifying the problem and getting help, I feel like I've kicked snoring and changed my life. I'd advise anyone else to do the same."