After years of sounding like a motorbike at night Jo Travis had surgery to stop her snoring.
Earlier this year I went on the holiday of a lifetime.
A workmate was getting married in China and three friends and I decided this was a fantastic opportunity to gatecrash.
Not only were we stopping off in Dubai on our way to Shanghai, we were dropping in on Hong Kong on the way home – tres glam.
There was talk of dresses and currency, visas and posh hotels, but during all the excitement I had a nagging worry: I was going to have to share a room, and I snore.
Now men may sweat and ladies glow, but if men snore it’s not like we can get away with claiming it’s purring – we snore too and it ain’t very ladylike.
I warned my room-mate about the problem and she was very sweet and brushed it off. Nevertheless, I provided earplugs for her – let’s face it a sleep deprived friend is not going to be the best travel companion.
She laughed it off and refused – until the third night when she discreetly enquired whether I still had them to hand. How embarrassing.
So it was with some interest that I viewed the invitation from The Private Clinic which has just started carrying out free consultations in Birmingham.
The Private Clinic is a Harley Street specialist in non-invasive cosmetic and medical treatments. It was established in 1983 and has a clinic in Manchester but nurses carry out free consultations across the country.
There are as many reasons for snoring as there are snorers, but there is no doubt that it is a growing problem, especially with the rise in obesity.
Apparently, with every stone of weight that you put on a pound goes straight onto your tongue, restricting your airway.
If you snore you can wake yourself up, without realising it, several times a night.
This means that you are skimping on the truly deep restorative sleep that you need in order to awake feeling properly rested.
This can leave you headachy, feeling tired all the time and can affect your libido.
It can also leave you craving high energy, sugary foods the following day to make up for your lack of energy, which leads to more weight gain and worse sleep.
In extreme case of sleep apnea (where your airway becomes blocked as you sleep, causing you to stop breathing and then choke) there is an increased risk of stroke.
And that is not to mention the nightly torture you can put your other half through as they struggle to sleep whilst you rev away like a Kawasaki ZXR.
The clinic has a number of solutions to your snoring, depending on the cause. These range from a splint to keep your tongue out of the way of your airway, to laser surgery, and if they can’t help you, or they think a dentist can, they will not hesitate to tell you.
After a thorough examination, nurse Kate Hill told me that the airway in my throat was very narrow and my nasal airway was also restricted, this meant that my body was fighting to take in oxygen every night.
She recommended laser surgery to reduce the inferior turbinates/septum that were reducing the airflow, and uvulopalatoplasty, which is the removal of the dangly bit at the back of your throat and some of the soft palate, which is what vibrates to create the snoring sound.
Another treatment involves tightening the soft palate with radio waves so it cannot vibrate.
I was a bit thrown by this diagnosis. Part of me had hoped it would just be a matter of a splint and a few singing exercises to strengthen my palate.
But I was under no pressure to decide right away and I spent a week thinking it over before I made the appointment. Three weeks later I was standing outside a rather lovely Georgian terrace on Harley Street, not really sure what to expect.
After filling in some forms in the beautiful dove grey and white stuccoed waiting room I was ushered into a small room, packed with equipment to meet my surgeon, Dr Yves Kamami.
The uvulopalatoplasty is a well established surgery on the NHS but Dr Kamami invented the less invasive laser procedure and has carried out thousands of treatments in London and Paris, so I knew I was in good hands.
He examined my throat and pronounced that my snoring was like a symphony (he is French) and the nose, throat and tongue were the instruments producing the cacophony.
My throat and nose were contributing about 50 per cent of the volume, but the rest was down to my tongue being too large for my mouth.
Vaguely relieved, I prepare to put on my coat and leave, but Dr Kamami said it was still worth going ahead with the treatment as the improvement the surgery would produce would enable me to exercise more effectively and, therefore, lose weight more easily.
Now I am pretty squeamish at the best at times and the thought of someone firing lasers up my nose like some medical Obi Wan Kenobi was not filling me with unalloyed joy.
However, Dr Kamami has a gentle yet firm manner and keeps you occupied with clenching your fist and singing to flatten your tongue, so you do not really focus on what he is doing.
The whole procedure took less than half and hour and the worst bit about it was the smell, but you ignore that after the first couple of minutes.
One of the things that came across was that all the medical staff know exactly what sensations you will experience at any point in your recovery and it is this anticipation that removes a lot of your worries.
I had a drink and a chat in the waiting room and apart from a runny nose I felt fine and went to catch my train armed with a sheet of advice on my recovery, dos and don’ts and a bag of lozenges, sprays and pills.
That night I felt like I had a cold and there were a couple of days when it hurt a bit to eat, but if you follow the clinic’s advice you will be right as rain in a fortnight.
I did not have to take any time off work and people only knew I had had something done when I made them look at my throat.
Which I did quite frequently, I’m afraid.
Seeing my newly cavernous throat for the first time was a bit of a shock – I was expecting a bit of a bay window effect and it looks more like a gothic arch.
But I do not miss my uvula (technical Black Country term – the clacker) at all.
From day one I noticed that I was taking in more air with every breath and my nose – which seemed to be permanently bunged up between winter colds and summer hay fever – is a lot clearer.
I have lost a bit of weight without trying, need less sleep and feel more refreshed when I wake and, weirdly, can sing better than I have done in years.
Last week I half awoke to the sound of gentle snoring.
I came to feeling a little bit depressed that I was still making a noise, until I realised it was not me at all – it was the cat!
Laser Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)
LAUP, is a simple procedure under local anaesthetic. The patient sits comfortably in a chair as if at the dentist, while the surgeon remodels the uvula and removes the excess vibrating soft tissue around it, using a laser beam.
Bipolar RFITT radio frequency treatment
A short, gentle, treatment that uses a current to tighten the uvula area, so that it vibrates far less during sleep. The new treatment involves numbing the back of the throat with a local anaesthetic and targeting it with a slim pen that emits a radio frequency. The heat causes the muscle within the soft palate to tighten and it continues to do in the weeks following treatment, with the maximum benefit achieved after six months. This treatment is most suitable for those with smaller throats and can also be used on enlarged tonsils.
This minimally invasive form of keyhole surgery can reduce enlarged fleshy ridges or ‘turbinate’ at the entrance to the sinuses, or correct a deviated septum (a buckled partition between the two nostrils). There is no bleeding, and you can go straight back to work afterwards.
For a free consultation call 0800 599 9911
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Birmingham consultations take place at the Peeltree Consulting Rooms, 81 Harborne Road,Edgbaston