Snoring is a voluntary habit that can be easily cured, says British doctor
If you snore at night, you're probably blissfully unaware that you do it. The person sleeping next to you, however, is extremely aware.
But a British doctor has come out with a controversial theory on snoring: that it's a voluntary habit. A habit he suggests snorers can actually break, following some simple steps and a willingness to sing their national anthem.
Dr. Mike Dilkes is an ear, nose and throat surgeon in London. Here's part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off.
Carol Off: Dr. Dilkes, for those who insist that their mates and spouses who snore should control it — you actually agree with them. You say it's possible to control snoring.
Mike Dilkes: Yeah. I think it's something that we develop as we get older. Most young people don't snore.
CO: And so what happens? Why do so many people as they age develop this habit?
MD: It's because the muscle tone in the throat is slowly slipping away as everything goes south as we get older. And so you need something to bring that back.
CO: What percentage of people snore? Do you know?
MD: Well, it's always hard to be absolutely certain because a lot of people who snore don't actually admit to it. So, we think somewhere around 50 per cent of males over the age of 50. And at least 20 per cent of females of that age — although possibly higher because they're not admitting it . . . It's a taboo subject, isn't it?
CO: So have you had a lot of people coming to you wanting to figure out how to stop snoring?
MD: Well, yeah. As a throat surgeon, I see a lot of people with a mechanical obstruction of their airway. A blocked nose or whatever. But sometimes you see people without anything obviously wrong with them. And that's why we developed these exercises.
CO: What are the exercises?
MD: It's interval training for the throat. Basically, it involves stretching and rapid movement exercises of the tongue, soft palate and the lower throat. So rather than a mass effort, it gives you tone and fitness.
CO: Can you give us a demonstration?
MD: There's a quick [exercise] you can do: Opening your mouth as wide as you can. Poking your tongue out as far as it'll go, so it hurts. You got to really strain your tongue out. Then you touch tip of your nose with your tongue. Then go south and touch your chin with your tongue. Then go side to side as far as you can. Then, as you're doing this, in a loud voice, sing something familiar like your national anthem.
CO: So if someone does this workout, four or five minutes a day, they'll stop snoring?
MD: If there's no other mechanical obstruction i.e. it's just an age-related problem, then yes — this is a good treatment.
CO: What evidence have you seen that it works?
MD: We've had no negative feedback yet. We've obviously done a lot of research on this over the years because these exercises aren't new. What we've done is condensed them into a useable, quick format you can do at night.
CO: But if people deny that they snore, then how can they be persuaded to do these exercises, if they don't even know they're doing it? Even if their mates are saying, "You kept me up last night"?
MD: Yeah, exactly. Then you record them and you say, "Look — you are snoring, here it is." Embarrass them into buying the book and doing it. Sometimes you need evidence.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. For more, listen to our complete interview with Dr. Mike Dilkes.