Keep sleepless nights at bay with tips from top ENT specialist Dr Lynne Lim on the best solutions for these health conditions
You know how it goes: boy meets girl, they get together, and girl keeps boy up all night with her loud…snoring. If this all sounds familiar (ahem, it happened to a friend of a friend), then we’ve got a great solution for you. Aside from investing in a pricey mattress, those struggling with snoring or sleep apnea should consult with an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist for the most effective ways to cope without possibly smothering your partner with a pillow.
One such expert is Dr Lynne Lim, who specialises in ear, nose, allergy, snoring, throat and hearing problems for children and adults at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre (Orchard). According to her, regular snorers are five times more likely to have hypertension, cholesterolemia, diabetes, heart attack and stroke than occasional snorers. In the long run, mouth breathing can result in long narrow facies, dental overbite and reduced lower jaw growth. Yikes! But it’s not all doom and gloom – we got Dr Lynne to give us a low-down on some do’s and don’ts of living with sleep apnea or a chronic snoring condition.
Those who are carrying excess weight may want to consider losing it for overall health, and to reduce snoring. It is advisable to keep the Body Mass Index (BMI) under 23 for Asians, and under 25 for non-Asian adults with moderate exercise.
Relieve nasal allergies or infections with proper treatment. For example, you can try addressing them with environmental allergens control, simple medication or nasal rinses to improve the nasal airway.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is presently the gold standard for treatment – a nasal or full face mask is worn at night, and automated pressure delivery of air into the airway helps stent open the airway during sleep.
Surgery may be needed in some cases. This ranges from nasal surgery, adenoid and tonsil surgery, soft palate stiffening and reconstruction surgery, tongue base and epiglottis reduction surgery to maxilla-mandibular advancement surgeries, and also bariatric surgery for morbid obesity.
Avoid trying to close the mouth of your partner to lessen the sound of snoring – that is somewhat unkind, as the oxygen lack could be exacerbated.
Piling on the pillows could force one’s chin onto the neck, and that may actually narrow the posterior airway behind the soft palate and tongue base more. To have the entire top half of the bed at a slight incline may help, but it is difficult to sleep the entire night with the body up, and blood circulation may be affected too.
Sleeping on one’s side may help some snorers, but if prolonged that can be uncomfortable for the shoulders and neck. Ensure that you get a good pillow that supports the neck without straining the shoulders – a bolster helps to keep you in position on your side. Some patients have sewn tennis balls into the back of the pyjamas to prevent them from turning onto their backs!
Avoid drinking alcohol too close to sleeping or worse, binge drink. Neuromuscular tone will be very lax, and that aggravates the snoring problem.
Sleeping pills, anxiety and antidepressant medications can increase snoring, so use them only if prescribed by the doctors.
Never use over-the-counter dental or jaw appliances without first consulting an ENT specialist or sleep physician, as the site of airway obstruction may not actually be the mouth. Incorrect use of appliances can cause strain to the jaw joints and dentition or make the snoring worse.
Adj Assoc Prof, Lynne Lim, is Senior ENT Consultant at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre (Orchard). Her clinic provides a one-stop service for treatments of ear, nose, allergy, snoring, throat and hearing problems for both children and adults. Dr. Lim graduated with medical degrees from National University of Singapore (MBBS) in 1992, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (FRCS, ENT) in 1996, and Harvard School of Public Health(MPH) in 2005.
Her further sub-specialisation Healthcare Manpower Development Program awards were in paediatric ENT, and for reconstruction surgery of complex microtia/ atresia/ middle ear bones pathology at the Stanford Medical Centre (USA), University of Virginia Medical Centre (USA), and Nagata Plastic and Ear Reconstruction Clinic (Japan).
LynneLim Ear Nose Throat & Hearing Centre, #17-07 Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, 3 Mount Elizabeth, Singapore 228510, p. 6737 7787; #15-02, Farrer Park Medical Center, 1 Farrer Park Station Road, Singapore 217562, p. 6702 0990.
This article is sponsored by LynneLim Ear Nose Throat & Hearing Centre