New Way to Silence Snoring - NBC 7 San Diego

New Way to Silence Snoring

Pillar procedure helps couples get a good night's sleep



    New Way to Silence Snoring
    Sleeping in shifts isn't the only solution to snoring.

    What's it like to hear a tuba blaring in your bed at night?

    Julia Gerhardt-Jacob says that's what her husband sounds like when he snores.

    "I was going without sleep," said Gerhardt-Jacob.

    She's not alone: The National Sleep Foundationestimates 90 million Americans have a snoring problem. Snoring is often linked to a serious condition called obstructive sleep apnea, in which people's breathing can stop at night because of obstructed airways.

    The couple resorted to sleeping in shifts. She would go to bed three hours earlier than her husband, Ted, just to be guaranteed a few hours of sleep.

    Ted tried a cumbersome contraption known as a CPAP device commonly used to treat sleep apnea as well as snoring. It worked but was so uncomfortable Ted couldn't sleep. A mouthguard didn't help, either.

    So finally Ted visited plastic surgeon Dr. Matthew Mingrone at the California Face and Laser Institute in East Palo Alto. Dr. Mingrone performed what's called a Pillar procedure, implanting small polyester rods into Ted's palate to stiffen it and prevent it from vibrating, the condition which creates loud snores.

    The procedure can be performed during a lunch hour, using local anesthesia.

    Just a few weeks later, Julia says she was able to get some much needed rest .

    "We've been able to  sleep together peacefully," said Gerhardt-Jacob. "I'm more cheerful now that I'm getting more sleep."

    Ted says he felt no pain -- except in his wallet. The procedure cost more than $2,000 and it's not covered by the couple's insurance.

    Aetna, a large health insurer, considers Pillar procedures to be "experimental," though it's been found effective in treating sleep apnea when tested in clinical trials.