Mail on Sunday
Jonathan’s snoring sounded like a jumbo jet: Weathergirl Sian Lloyd has suffered from sleepless nights for all the wrong reasons.
If you ask ITV weathergirl Sian Lloyd to name the best present she has ever had, she does not hesitate. ‘It was Jonathan having an operation to stop his snoring,’ she beams.
‘He did it as a surprise for me last year while I was abroad. The snoring didn’t disturb him but the absolutely horrendous noise woke me constantly during the night.
‘Most of his snores began by sounding like an electric lawn mower on full power, then shifted to a passable imitation of a jumbo jet taking off and then reverted back to the lawn mower. I’d sometimes be so exhausted from the disturbances, I’d walk around in a daze the following day.’
She pauses. ‘It’s my best present because Jonathan put himself through the operation because he cared about me and how I was sleeping. I have never been more moved.’
Jonathan Ashman, 61, a millionaire motor-racing entrepreneur, divorced from his wife Sedef ten years ago, has been married to Sian for just over two years.
The pair are still in the lovey-dovey honeymoon stage and giggle gently together as they speak. Snoring is often seen as a bit of a giggle too, but in reality it is no laughing matter.
About four out of ten men and three out of ten women snore and the repercussions can be emotional as well as physical.
‘Snoring comes up almost daily as grounds for divorce and when couples tell me they are rowing a lot, I can often trace it back to the lack of sleep that snoring causes,’ says divorce lawyer Vanessa Lloyd Platt.
‘But lawyers rarely put it down on the divorce petition because it can seem to trivialise a divorce.’
Snoring is far from trivial – around 20 per cent of snoring is so serious that it requires surgery, while for about ten per cent of snorers it is also a symptom of sleep apnoea.
This is a potentially life-threatening condition when an individual stops breathing for ten seconds or more. It affects about five per cent of adults and is markedly more common in men, especially if they are obese.
It can occur up to 400 times in one night –and the throat muscles relax so much they block the airway, depriving the body and brain of oxygen. This can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and hypertension.
Jonathan does not suffer from sleep apnoea. Nor has he suffered from any of the more common conditions that cause people to snore more loudly.
He is not overweight, does not sleep on his back, nor does he drink to excess and he has never smoked.
In fact, he had no idea before he met Sian that he snored at all. ‘No one had mentioned it,’ he insists. ‘So I assume it began around the time Sian and I got together.’
The pair share a four-bedroom house in Kensington and have a second home in mid-Wales. He continues: ‘All I was aware of was that my nose felt blocked in the morning. Sian, of course, had to put up with the noise, but she was always very tactful.’
‘Of course I was,’ Sian, 51, confirms-I can’t get to sleep unless I read first and Jonathan usually falls asleep before I do.
Although his sound effects were bad, I tried not to do anything about them when I was awake. But when he woke me during the night, I would often nudge him, but only very gently.’
Many wives would not be so tolerant and according to research four out of ten women whose partners snore move to another bedroom to get a decent night’s rest. Sian did not consider this drastic action.
‘I couldn’t go, even if he sounded like a fleet of several jumbo jets,’ she says. ‘It wouldn’t feel right. But it did make me see why sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture.
‘When you don’t sleep properly long-term, you are not yourself and it is very difficult to cope. Fortunately, Jonathan wasn’t absolutely terrible every night.’
Sian’s ‘gentle nudging’ prompted Jonathan to try over-the-counter nasal strips. These are placed over the bridge of the nose and help keep the nasal passages open. ‘I found them uncomfortable and they didn’t work,’ he says.
Jonathan’s quest for a cure took a leap forward when he and Sian visited Sian’s sister Ceri and her French husband Christian in Paris towards the end of 2008.
‘Christian told us about a successful small operation he had just had for his snoring,’ he recalls. ‘It sounded just what I needed and when we came home I did some research on the internet to see if I could have it done in London.
Surgery is often recommended only as a last resort and is not always successful but Jonathan decided not to go to his GP and sort out the problem himself. ‘I assumed I wouldn’t be bad enough to get the operation on the NHS so chose to go privately,’ he explains.
His operation was scheduled for January 7, 2009 – the same day Sian was flying off for a week’s stay at La Manga, on Spain’s Costa Calida.
‘He didn’t tell me before I went, which I am pleased about,’ she says. ‘I would have tried to put him off having it as every operation, however minor, carries a risk.’
Dr Kamami explains: ‘Snoring usually starts at around 40 and once it does, it is likely to get worse. Most people wait a few years and come to me when they are around 50 and it has become intolerable for their partner.’
Jonathan required two procedures, one to unblock his nose, the other to reduce the size of the soft palate at the back of his throat and eliminate vibrations.
‘Jonathan’s operation took barely more than 15 minutes,’ Dr Kamami recalls. ‘I sprayed a local anaesthetic over the back of his throat then injected more anaesthetic into the muscle area of the uvula. I then used a laser – which means there is no bleeding – to remove about 1cm of tissue from the soft palate.’
The procedure is called laser-assisted uvolopalatoplasty (LAUP) and costs between £1,300 and £2,800.
It was originally used for treating tonsils, but Dr Kamami has pioneered its use for snoring. ‘So far, I have performed 10,000 LAUP operations over 22 years,’ he says.
‘I also used a laser to unblock Jonathan’s nose by reducing the enlarged fleshy ridges or ‘turbinates’ at the entrance of the sinuses.
‘The good news is that after the treatment, the snoring stops immediately. The not so good news is that the patient can have a sore throat for up to ten days afterwards.’
An hour after the procedure, Jonathan was able to leave the clinic. He says: ‘Like most men, I am hopeless with pain and was surprised and delighted that when I walked out my throat didn’t hurt and my voice was barely affected.
My maximum discomfort came about a week after the surgery but I took painkillers, had lots of cooling sorbet and it went after a couple of days.’
When Sian came back, Jonathan told her what he had done. ‘I was so moved, I shed a few tears,’ she smiles.
Sian and Jonathan met in 2007 at a St David’s Day party at Westminster Palace organised by Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Wales, and were introduced by the Minister himself.
Jonathan proposed in December the same year at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Sian, born in Bridgend, Wales, had previously had a 14-year relationship with Mark Cavendish and a four-year relationship with Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik.
Sian is thrilled to find what she describes as ‘grown-up love’.
She says: ‘Jonathan is incredibly caring. We share everything and support each other as much as possible. ‘I have learned from past mistakes. It is easy to stay in a bad relationship when, like me, you are not brave enough to start again.
‘I now make a point of saying to many of my girlfriends who think they will never meet someone special that it is never too late to find love.
‘Jonathan is such a lovely man, even with the snoring. Just occasionally he snores slightly, but it is more a gentle release of air, a sort of “pphhh” sound .’
Jonathan smiles. ‘I am extremely glad I had it done, especially as it has made Sian so happy.’