Snoring solved with a tennis ball
By Jen Kelly
August 2, 2004
A TENNIS ball has been found to cure snoring and help treat a related sleep condition linked in turn to heart attacks.
Melbourne researchers found 80 per cent of snorers were cured by wearing a tennis ball in a fabric sling on their back.
The ball forced them to sleep on their sides instead of their back. Austin Health researchers said the cure was simple, cheap and effective.
It also helped treat sleep apnoea, a dangerous condition in which a person stops breathing for seconds at a time.
The idea of strapping a ball to the back to cure snorers has existed for at least a century, and one version was patented by an American in 1908.
Women have long tried sewing tennis balls into the backs of their husbands' pyjamas to cure their snoring.
Sleep apnoea is linked to heart attacks, and the number of sufferers is rising in line with Australia's obesity epidemic.
Austin researchers found sleeping on the side instead of the back slashed in half the number of breathing pauses during the night.
Researcher Dr Maree Barnes said the tennis ball treatment could help in a half to two-thirds of sleep apnoea cases linked to sleeping position.
While the pattern for the tennis ball sling is available from the Austin, Dr Barnes urged sufferers to see a sleep specialist for advice first.
"As with any other treatment for sleep apnoea, it should be used only on the advice of a sleep physician," she said.
"It's a fabric band that wraps around the waist, then straps over the shoulder, then the tennis ball is in a pouch that is attached to the waistband.
"People may decide to sew a little pouch on the back of a T-shirt. The trouble is that may slip around because most T-shirts aren't skin-tight."
The Austin recruited 40 patients with newly diagnosed obstructive sleep apnoea, the condition's most serious form.
People with sleep apnoea constantly stop breathing as they sleep. As they struggle to breathe again, they may snore and thrash around the bed.
They also wake briefly, and their breathing starts again. Sufferers are often drowsy by day, and may fall asleep, potentially causing accidents.
Sleep apnoea is linked to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and, possibly, diabetes.
Until now, the two main treatments for sleep apnoea have been overnight airway pumps or mouthguard-style devices that hold the jaw forward during sleep, both more expensive and invasive.
Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if obese, increasing exercise, and avoiding alcohol before bedtime, may help.
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