Silence is a virtue. Just ask anyone who shares a bed with someone who snores.
“I had never heard anybody snore (like that), until I heard Bob,” said Sandra Kotzambasis, Bob Fix’s girlfriend. “As a kid, my dad snored and we used to make fun of him all the time. It wasn’t a big deal; you couldn’t hear him across the house. Bob, you can hear him across the house, and probably outside. It sounds like a freight train.”
Caused by a combination of physical and environmental factors, there is no easy or “one-size-fits-all” cure for snoring. It’s more of a long, and often taxing, diagnostic journey, simultaneously examining all potential factors against a strategic application of relevant and proven treatments.
“When the doctor suggested he get a sleep study, I was really excited,” Kotzambasis added. “I thought he would finally be diagnosed. Before that, he was always very defensive about his snoring and wouldn’t believe it was a major issue for his health.”
There is no shortage of evidence proving that sleep is a fundamental component to health and wellness, having a significant effect on the immune system, metabolism, memory, learning, and cardiovascular function.
“Anytime you have snoring, you need to be evaluated because it can lead to serious health risks,” said Lauri Leadley, a clinical sleep educator, respiratory therapist and owner of Valley Sleep Center. “Cardiovascular disease, stroke, you have an increased rise of heart attack, cancer, diabetes, all kinds of things.”
Fix’s snoring developed as a teen and has haunted him for decades.
“In the Navy, people would throw their boots at me at night to try to get me to stop,” Fix said. “When I’m out, I’m out.”
Because of how hard he sleeps, Fix didn’t fully understand the magnitude of his snoring problem. He couldn’t hear it. But, it greatly impacted those around him.
“He doesn’t realize he’s doing it and when he does, he rolls over, stops for 30 seconds and he snores again,” Kotzambasis said.
Fix and Kotzambasis are not alone.
A 2015 study commissioned by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine found that snoring was a major point of contention in many relationships. One in five admitted to leaving their bed when their partner snores, while 40 percent of women classified snoring as a turn-off. About 10 percent of participants admitted snoring has damaged at least one romantic relationship.
“In my practice I often see women who say, ‘Hey, I’m just going to sleep down the hall in the spare bedroom,’” said Julianna Lyddon, a life coach and relationship expert. “Most couples don’t like that because it looks like, whoa, we’re not going to have sex anymore, the intimacy is going to be affected, we’re not old enough to be sleeping in separate rooms.”
Suffering from low energy levels, a heart condition and a slightly annoyed girlfriend, Fix was finally diagnosed with severe sleep apnea in 2014. Yet it took two years before he found an effective treatment because, he admitted, change is difficult and involves conceding that something is wrong.
Over the two years, Fix tried several treatments with varying levels of success. He tried a couple different types of nasal strips. And he even tried a nasal stent. Then, he stumbled onto something new.
Just in time for a trip last summer, a friend of Kotzambasis recommended that Fix try a new nasal stent called Mute. The affordable, over-the-counter product sounded promising, so they took it on their trip.
“Those actually worked pretty good,” Fix said of the small, soft rubber nasal dilator. “Then I finally went for the mask.”
The National Sleep Foundation reports that snoring affects approximately 37 million American adults regularly and 90 million occasionally, which indicates this condition is potentially threatening a significant number of relationships.
“I think couples argue about two major things,” Kotzambasis said, laughing at the possibilities. “It’s gotta be money or snoring.”