Monday, May 21, 2012

A Cure for Snoring?

Okay, before I left you last week I had promised that I would tell you all about my severe snoring issues, and how I have apparently cured them.

Before I get to the secret, let me first give you some idea of just how bad my snoring actually was. When you read these examples, you might fall on the floor laughing, in which case, you'd best call 911 right now, so as to be prepared before you continue.

Example Number One:

Some twenty years ago, I used to take a great number of camping vacations in various remote or exotic places inside the United States.I have been in most of the major National Parks of the Western United States; I have climbed mountains, hiked over glaciers, trekked across the Southwestern Deserts, rafted down some of the roughest whitewater in the country. It was all great fun; if you need someplace to go on vacation this year, and  want to do so relatively inexpensively, a few days hiking around a National Park is the way to go.

Just don't go all Bear Grylls on everyone and wind up having to be rescued by a battalion of Park Rangers and a helicopter. Know your limitations, people! Only those who have been trained and are experienced can truly hack back-country camping; don't be stupid. Anyways, there are two relevant tales to tell here.

One year, my friends and I spent a day in the Valley of Fire, in Nevada, on our way to a week-long trip in Utah's Zion Canyon. We spent the day exploring the place, and climbing the red rocks, which have a very unique property.

You see, the Valley of Fire is mostly composed of  reddish sandstone-like rock cliffs which surround a deep  valley.cut by a long-gone river. The circumstances of valley shape, and the qualities of the sandstone, make the Valley of Fire a natural amphitheatre. Sounds are magnified many times, so that even the barest whisper can sound like normal conversation, and amplified sounds often carry great distances.

Like when you snore. And the Park Rangers have to drive by at 4 a.m., having traveled some five or seven miles from their base, to wake you up and inform you that your snoring is disturbing both them and the campers clear on the other side of the valley, who are all complaining of the noise. Oh, and would you please leave before we cite you for causing a public disturbance?

A second incident: two years later, while back-country hiking in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, we decided to hike up the Poudre River Valley. It looked easy enough from the map: not much elevation, good water sources nearby. What we neglected to find out, though, was what sort of wildlife we were likely to encounter in the area. The herd of elk wasn't so surprising...the bears were.

We spotted our first bear (a black one) right after setting up camp. As we went down to the river to fetch water, the bear had come to our camp, probably attracted by the smell of our garbage (take out what you take in!), which we had hoisted up in the air over a convenient tree branch not too far away. Being unarmed, and not in the mood to wrestle with even a puny black bear, we simply moved upwind from the little bastard, kept him in our sight from a distance, and let him do his thing. Once he'd gotten bored, he moved off, and we went back to our camp. It was decided the best thing to do now that we knew a bear was in the area, would be to get the fuck out of his territory,. but it was getting dark and some rain clouds began to move in (it rains up there just about every afternoon, you know). So, we stayed.

Wouldn't you know it? The bear came back. Or, at least a bear came back. While I was dead to the world, perhaps well into my second dream, two of my camping companions were certain there was a bear sniffing around the campsite -- because they heard it. One may have actually wet himself when they heard the familiar bear-snuffling sound. And happened.

I started snoring. A loud, roaring sort of sound that apparently scared the fertilizer out of the bear, who left a pile of same near our second tent, and then fled, never to be seen again. The two companions who heard the bear outside their tent swear that my snoring kept a hungry bear from tossing our campsite and maybe making a snack out of us.

Example Number Two:

Returning from an extended week of adolescence in Las Vegas, I find myself flying coach (they overbooked, dammit!), and forced to take a seat at the rear of the plane. Sometime during the flight, a lovely little America West 737, I fall asleep, probably somewhere over Colorado.

The next thing I know, a Stewardess is shaking me violently, and imploring me to wake up. Apparently, I have been snoring....again..and the other passengers in coach have complained. Worse, and most embarrassing, the Stew informs me that she personally heard me sawing wood from all the way from the forward galley.

That's me overcoming the sound of two jet engines, an in-flight movie, and God only knows how many pointless conversations with complete strangers in the next seat intended to simply pass the time.

In other words, I snore. Badly. I don't do it on purpose, mind you, it just happens. I've tried everything to fix it, too: sleep studies (waste of time and insurance company money), special pillows, mouthpieces which promise much but deliver little, and which are also uncomfortable and expensive. I've tried sleeping on my back or on my side, but I always wind up back on my stomach, with my mouth hanging open. I have the worst sinuses in the history of mankind, and congestion is an issue; there is no drug, no aroma pot, no adhesive strip that has fixed this issue for me.

I have had girlfriends actually tape record my snoring and play it back to me! I was at first shocked, and then amazed to think that a human body could make that sort of noise, something between a chain-smoking lion and an asthmatic rhino. It's a nasty noise, and considering that once I'm asleep I'm pretty much asleep for as long as I want to be, it can be quite the ordeal for anyone else sharing the bed.

Which it recently was for my delightful old/new girlfriend, the Beautiful Tess Trueheart, who has both left the bedroom, and kicked me out of it...many times. Finally, pissed off at the fact that I was waking her up at least four to five times a night with loud, obnoxious snoring, Tess gave me an ultimatum: find something to fix this, or we're sleeping in separate beds.

I must confess, at first, the suggestion did have some appeal. But then I remembered something, a remote vision that hovered at the vague edges of my memory and consciousness, and the word "SEX" somehow came to mind. I suddenly remembered just why it was that Tess and I were sharing that bed in the first place.

So, having exhausted the "traditional" and "medically approved' conventions about snoring without any success, I decided to see if the hippies -- that is, the believers in Holistic and natural medicine -- could do any better.I quickly found that all the hippies on Planet Earth rave about two substances that supposedly stop snoring: peppermint oil and marjoram oil. I figured I had nothing to lose but Blue Balls, so why not.

One catch: the shit is expensive. Super expensive. And you can't buy either peppermint or marjoram oil in small quantities, as you might need them. Nope, you need to buy them a quart at a time,and spend in the neighborhood of $40 per. And even then, the proscribed use was to place the oil in an aroma lamp -- and who wants an open flame next to the bed in the middle of the night? -- or to leave the oil out to evaporate into the bedroom environment, which means the smell gets into everything. It meant that Tess had something else to keep her up, because the peppermint oil burned her nose, being super strong.

So, I finally asked a pharmacist if there was some acceptable substitute for either oil that wasn't quite as strong or obnoxious, cheaper, and over-the-counter. After he tried to sell me Breathe-rite strips (pieces of shit!), he finally gave me some reasonable advice:

Get yourself some Vapo-Rub, stick it in your nostrils before you go to bed, and that should help you out. Oh, an d use a pillow to put under your chin, so your mouth doesn't fall open when you sleep.

And wouldn't you know it? It fucking works! Like a charm!

According to Tess, I hardly snore at all, now. She's well-rested, I'm getting laid more regularly, and everyone is so happy they could shit. I haven't slept this well in years. A $7 jar of Vick's Vapo-Rub, a small dab just inside each nostril every night (after I blow my nose, of course!), and some of the best sleep I've ever had without being pants-pissing drunk.

So, if you snore, here's my advice: fuck the fancy pillows. Screw the sleep studies (unless you're at risk of a heart attack or stroke, then by all means, have one), forget sticky pieces of plastic. None of that helped this hard-core snorer; eight weeks ago I started this regimen, and let me tell you, I'm a lot happier for it! So is Tess.

I guess this means that any bears in the neighborhood can consider me fair game, now, huh?

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