The house is quiet at night nowadays.
Before, Tom Lamarca of Naples would almost snore loud enough to wake the dead.
Lamarca had surgery a year and half ago to remove excess tissue from his throat. That surgery changed his life, and that of his wife. Even his grandchildren noticed a difference.
"My grandchildren would stay overnight and say, 'Grampy, I heard you snoring and it came right through the door!'" Lamarca said. "I did do the surgery for health reasons, but also to give my wife some comfort, because after 44 years of marriage she deserves a good night's sleep — and once you have the surgery, you realize how wonderful it is for your partner."
Snoring affects millions of people and their families. Far more than a nuisance, snoring can be a daily sleep thief that can wreck daytime alertness and wreak havoc on marriages.
Otolaryngologist Dr. James Hadley, of Physicians Regional Medical Group, treats patients for whom snoring has become an issue. Lamarca was referred to Hadley by his own physician.
For many sufferers, those options were as undesirable as the snoring itself. Therapies such as continuous positive airway pressure, mouth guards and nose strips can be helpful to curb snoring. But for some patients, wearing anything on the face prevents sleep, rendering the bulky mask that comes with the CPAP machine useless.
Snoring can also signal major health issues. Sleep apnea is a common and sometimes dangerous condition. Hadley said patients with obstructive sleep apnea always snore.
"Mild snoring is not necessarily associated with true, severe sleep apnea syndrome, which interferes with daytime work activities," he said. "Obstructive sleep apnea has been shown to (interfere) because of poor work performance, significant impairment of school performance and decrease in quality of life."
Amanda Ullrich is a superstar in the food and beverage industry in Naples. A bartender at Aldo's Italian Ristorante in East Naples, she has a following of customers who patronize the restaurant as much for her sense of humor and recommendations as they do the Italian cuisine. But behind Ullrich's friendly nature and energy is a young woman who struggles with getting enough sleep every night.
Ullrich's snoring has revealed a struggle to breathe, and she said her physician believes she has apnea.
"I had two chest X-rays and a follow-up appointment with a pulmonary specialist and a spirometer test," said Ullrich, whose father also has apnea and underwent surgery to treat it. "I have no trouble falling asleep, but staying asleep is another thing because I wake up several times during the night."
Lamarca's surgery cured his snoring, but a myriad other options exist for patients who qualify.
"Occasionally, dental appliances such as the 'snore guard' or the 'snore stop' devices can be utilized to reduce the snoring as well and can be obtained through most dental offices," Hadley said.
One treatment is an injection into the soft palate of snorers that is proven to help patients with the condition.
"Injection snore plasty is an office technique that uses a sclerosing agent injected into the soft palate and uvula, which has been shown to significantly improve and reduce (snoring in) patients who have simple snoring without severe sleep apnea," said Hadley, who, along with other otolaryngology physicians, performs this procedure.
Snoring patient Joe Meek found Hadley through Health Management Associates, which owns Physicians Regional. He elected to have the cutting-edge injection snore plasty.
"It has allowed me to feel more rested, and my wife has noticed a dramatic reduction in my snoring," said Meek, whose snoring returns slightly only when he battles a cold or nasal inflammation.
Meek said he previously tried other treatments — none of which worked.
"I tried other methods to stop snoring including over-the-counter 'solutions' such as nose strips, Benadryl and nasal sprays, but none proved effective," he said.
He is a deep sleeper who doesn't wake frequently, as a previous sleep study showed.
"Most importantly, Dr. Hadley determined that I did not have sleep apnea, and I am relatively fit and trim," he said.
Meek had two injection snore plasty procedures and was recovered within 48 hours each time.
Some claimed treatments don't reduce or cure snoring.
Hadley cautions patients to not waste money on gimmicks such as specialized mattresses, which he said do not improve sleep patterns.
In addition to lack of sleep that causes daytime sleepiness, clumsiness, weight gain and impairment of cognitive function, snoring can have a profound emotional effect on couples. Natalie Garcia is an urgent care and outpatient services clinical supervisor at the David Lawrence Center for mental health and substance abuse.
She said when a couple is facing serious marital issues or concerns as a result of snoring or other possible underlying issues, it is time to see a professional.
"The concern about snoring negatively impacting relationships is a valid one, and the National Sleep Foundation has found 38 percent of partners cite sleep disorders as the cause to their relationship problems," she said. "Some of the problems that are caused by snoring is lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, lack of intimacy and resentment between partners."
Through counseling support and clinical direction, she said these couples can develop coping skills.
"The first step in finding a solution for snoring is for both partners to acknowledge that snoring is causing a problem in the relationship, because couples who sleep apart risk a loss of an intimate connection and becoming more like roommates than a couple," Garcia said. She emphasizes that couples who do sleep apart need to work to maintain a physical connection.