A good night’s sleep within easy reach

MIRACLE WORKER: Max Gay uses a mould to create a custom-made Snorex device for a client.
MIRACLE WORKER: Max Gay uses a mould to create a custom-made Snorex device for a client.

Sponsored content: Snoring, as well as being a nuisance, can also be a health problem. One Wellingtonian has a simple solution - Snorex, a non-invasive way to get a good night's sleep.

About 50 per cent of adult New Zealanders snore, and most of those will either deny that they do, or say that it's not their problem.

But it is. At the low end of the scale, snoring can interrupt sleep patterns - not just those of the snorer - and at the high end, it can be life threatening.

Over the years, there have been many attempts at treatment, some more effective than others. Sleeping masks can be beneficial but cumbersome and surgery is a last-ditch option, but one Wellingtonian has a solution that is simple to use, practical and, above all, it works.

Snorex is a lightweight, soft plastic device that's worn at night. Similar in shape to a sports mouthguard, and custom fitted in the same way, Snorex does not take long to get used to. That's according to Snorex founder, Max Gay - and he should know, he's been using one for years.

"I am a snorer myself," he says. "I'd been trying things for years - with special pillows, sprays, a plastic strip on my nose - to get a decent night's sleep, but nothing worked. Or if it did, it didn't last long."

Desperate, Max was considering surgery, until he came across the Snorex device, developed by a Auckland man. He tried it, and it worked - so well, he slept right through from the first night. Impressed, Max bought the rights to the product and, 17 years later, business is booming. Quietly booming...

Snoring occurs when the muscles in the back of the mouth relax, allowing the tongue to slip back into the airway, partially blocking it. As air is forced through this narrowing, it causes the soft tissues to vibrate, and it's that noise that disrupts sleep patterns. In more serious cases, the tongue can momentarily block the airway, preventing breathing. This condition, known as sleep apnoea, can happen several times a night, sometimes several times an hour, with sometimes dire consequences.

Without enough sleep, sufferers are permanently tired, affecting mood and memory and activities such as driving.

Special sleeping masks work for some people but they take some getting used to. Surgery to tighten or remove soft tissue at the back of the throat is another option, although results are not guaranteed. And external devices to hold the head in one position can be bulky.

Snorex is much simpler. Like a mouthguard, it fits over the teeth and holds the lower jaw slightly closed and forward, keeping the tongue in its normal position and the airway unobstructed.

It's not a case of one size fits all, however - each Snorex has to be custom fitted. And that's Max's job.

"I'll visit clients in their own homes to measure them up," he says. "Then I'll make the device back at base and deliver it to them."

Max will travel to clients in the southern part of the North Island from Wellington to Wanganui, Palmerston North, Dannevirke and Masterton. Clients outside of those regions either come to him or visit one of his licensees in Auckland or Christchurch.

Max's filing cabinet is full of testimonials from happy customers, with many letters written by relieved partners. A few years ago, one client was so taken with Snorex, he approached Max with the idea of franchising the idea overseas. Max agreed and now, under the name Snorepro, the device is making inroads overseas. Max travelled to China earlier this year to train dental hospital staff, followed by a training visit to Brisbane and Sydney. Max's business colleague has just returned from the United States where there's been a lot of interest as well.

Max provides a premium service with a high-quality device that obviously works well. He says he gets a lot of repeat custom and referrals through satisfied clients, and is on to the second generation of users in some families.

His motivation to start the business came from experiencing first-hand the benefits of Snorex, and what keeps him going is knowing that he's making a big difference to relationships in the Wellington region. One client suggested to him, light-heartedly of course, that he probably saved more marriages than all the marriage guidance counsellors in the region.

He says his greatest moment was when he visited a client for a minor adjustment.

"His wife who I had never met before rushed up to me, threw her arms around me and gave me a kiss and effusive thanks for the silence."

Mostly though, he says, it's a bottle of wine.

And the satisfaction of knowing he's making a difference.

The Dominion Post