You are here: Home > MEDIA ROOM > MEDIA COVERAGE > Print Coverage

Print Coverage


vancouver sun
July 25, 2007
Page: C11
Section: Businessbc
Byline: Brian Morton

A snorer's dream product; A Vancouver man designs a T-shirt that encourages
snorers to sleep on their sides, quietly
anti-snore shirtSean Kerklaan is using his business savvy to turn a personal problem--
snoring--into a money-making venture.

The 30-year-old Kerklaan has a history of heavy snoring, a problem so severe
that it not only created considerable friction in his university dorm but
helped end his marriage.

Kerklaan tried just about everything to end his snoring, including trying
out costly options such as the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
mask (it was supposed to keep his airway open) and a retainer that held his
lower jaw against his upper jaw. To no avail.

"I also tried some gimmicks, nasal spray and nose strips," Kerklaan said in
an interview. "They didn't work."

But Kerklaan, who has a commerce degree, continued his research, which
ultimately led him to develop a product based on a technique doctors believe
eases snoring -- sleeping on one's side. Typically, therapies have included
sleeping on a tennis ball to force the snorer onto his or her side and allow
the airways to open wider than if sleeping on the back.

However, the tennis ball concept -- Kerklaan duct-taped it to his shirt --
didn't work for him, so he continued redesigning the concept in his
Kitsilano home. Twenty prototypes later, he settled on a cotton T-shirt with
three soft styrofoam cylinders -- removable for laundering -- sewn into the
back to keep the wearers sleeping on their side.

Thus was born the REM-A-TEE Anti-Snore Shirt, which just might be the
salvation of millions of long-suffering wives (and more than a few husbands)
everywhere.

"It's a successful, but simple, cost-effective solution to a drastic health
concern," added Kerklaan, who suffers from sleep apnea, a potentially
serious medical condition -- typically accompanied by loud snoring -- in
which the sufferer literally stops breathing several times during the night.

"And it works phenomenally well," added Kerklaan, who maintains if wearers
involuntarily roll onto their backs while sleeping, the foam inserts gently
nudge them back onto their sides. "I thought, 'how can I commercialize this
product?' The design is such that you're on your side and you don't even
know you're wearing it. And I love sleeping on my side, although you need to
have a pillow between your knees."

Kerklaan, who launched his company just three weeks ago after researching
the product for a year, has invested $35,000 in the shirts and feels he has
to sell 1,200 of them to break even. So far, he's sold about 200 T-shirts
(about $33 each), but currently only sells them online at
www.antisnoreshirt.com.

Kerklaan is now talking to several potential sales outlets and feels he has
the potential to sell over a million shirts in the next two years. "I expect
this to hit retail stores, and for sales to pick up in the fall."

The Montreal native, who has been a heavy snorer since his mid teens, first
realized he had a problem in university when his roommate threw a pillow at
him to try to stop the snoring. He believes his heavy snoring was also a
factor in the breakup of his marriage because his wife only moved in with
him after the marriage and realized -- too late -- how bad her husband's
snoring was. "Snoring is a huge issue for many, many people and it's killing
tons of relationships."

And how effective is Kerklaan's T-shirt?

"I was skeptical at first, but it's great," environmental scientist and
long-time Burnaby snorer Owen McHugh said in an interview. "I snore on my
back, but I haven't had a problem since getting [the T-shirt]."

McHugh said his snoring is so bad that while conducting a recent survey on
marine mammals, he slept in a bunk above a fishing boat captain, who was
himself a heavy snorer. "He told me that I out-snored him."

Najib Ayas, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of B.C. who
specializes in sleep-related breathing disorders, said in a statement that
the side-sleeping that the T-shirt encourages may help people suffering from
positional sleep apnea. "For these types of patients, this shirt is a very
reasonable way of keeping them on their side and treating their positional
sleep apnea," added Ayas, who has no financial interest in the T-shirt.

Snoring, which affects about 30 per cent of people over 30 and 40 per cent
in middle age, happens during sleep when the muscles at the back of the
throat and tongue relax, causing the tongue to drop back and the airway to
narrow. Air passes through causing vibrations of tissue, creating the
snoring sound.

Snoring is attributed to several factors, including excess weight, sleeping
on the back, and taking alcohol or medications.

bmorton@png.canwest.com



gazette
July 9, 2007
Page: D2
Section: Arts & Life
Byline: Lisa Fitterman

One man's cure for his dreaded snoring is to sleep on it. Well, not on it, exactly
These days, I fantasize about He Who Must Obey wearing a little T-shirt, and
not one of those muscle things that show off biceps and abdominals that once
were a four-pack (alas, not a six).

Instead, my fantasy revolves around a standard grey, heavy cotton Fruit of
the Loom number that comes with a "three-pack" at the back. Confused? Let me
explain.

You, dear reader, surely remember my column about a cutting-edge aid for
snoring and sleep apnea that required the snorer to do singing exercises. I
was excited about a program based on the notion that a well-toned throat and
strong nasal muscles wouldn't go all floppy in bed at night and thus would
remain blessedly silent.

Sadly, my snorer balked at doing the exercises. He was too self-conscious to
stand before a mirror going "ung-gah!" over and over again. Even faced with
the dark baggage under my eyes from sleepless nights, he couldn't see the
point of making such a spectacle of himself.

Knowing that it's useless to try to change his mind, I set out to find
something else. That's when I got an email about the T-shirt. More
specifically, it's called the REM-A-TEE Anti-Snore Shirt, and it's about the
simplest yet most devious little invention I have ever seen.

You see, it has pockets in the back, each of which contains a removable
Styrofoam noodle -- a shorter version of the things that kids use in pools -
in order to prevent the snorer from sleeping on his back. (C'mon, girls. It
usually is him, right?)

The shirt's inventor says its very existence is due to trial, error and,
sadly, a broken marriage. Yes, girls: Sean Kerklaan snores!

"My first recollection of my snoring is from university, when I woke up in
the middle of the night while visiting a friend with teddy bears being flung
at my head," the 30-year-old former Montrealer tells me from Vancouver,
where he has lived for the past few years.

In 2002, he got married. Both he and his (now ex) wife came from traditional
families, so it wasn't until they moved in together after the wedding and
had to start getting up in the morning to go to work that she realized just
how bad her hubbie's snoring was going to be.

"I'm the kind of sleeper whose head hits the pillow and I'm gone. For her,
it was, like, even the stress of knowing I was going to snore would keep her
up," Kerklaan says. "When you're sleeping in separate rooms and you've been
married only a month, it doesn't look good."

Desperate, Kerklaan went for tests and was diagnosed with a mild case of
sleep apnea, in which a person repeatedly stops breathing during - you
guessed it! - sleep. But his health benefits didn't cover costly treatments.
It was back to the (snoring) trenches.

In 2005, he was tested again at the University of B.C.'s Sleep Disorder
Clinic. This time, he did try a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
mask, which was supposed to keep his airway open by adding pressure to the
air he breathed.

It didn't work.

Next up was a retainer that advanced his lower jaw to keep his airway open.
That didn't work, either.

Finally, Kerklaan's dentist suggested attaching a tennis ball to the back of
a shirt to keep him from sleeping on his back. He thought, "What the heck,"
went home, duct taped one on because he doesn't sew - and had the best sleep
of his life.

Even though he and his wife were separated by that point, he began to work
up some prototypes that were more easily laundered. But nothing was really
feasible until his mother suggested pool noodles. Voila! The invention was
born, only to be fine-tuned with three pockets and Velcro fasteners. Thanks,
Mom.

But does it work? Well, yes. But He Who Must Obey would also need pool
noodles sewn to the T-shirt sides, this because (drum roll, please) he
snores on his side, too.

Ain't that a snoring shame?

Visit Kerklaan's website at

antisnoreshirt.com. The T-shirts cost $32.99 and come in blue and grey
because he likes those colours.

lisafitt@yahoo.com


The Globe and Mail - The Globe and Mail

How can I tell if my partner has sleep apnea?

We ask the experts to settle common questions we've all wondered about. If you've got a question, send it to seriously@globeandmail.com. Be sure to include your hometown and a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

QUESTION I hear my partner snoring at night and I am worried that it might be sleep apnea - how can I tell and what should we do?

ANSWER Although an overnight study performed at the sleep clinic by a medical professional is the most reliable way to determine whether someone suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, there are indicators of this condition that are frequently reported by sufferers or their sleeping partners. Snoring is one.

But not everyone who snores has OSA. OSA affects 2 to 5 per cent of people over 30 and is much less common than snoring, but there are similarities in these two conditions. Both snoring and sleep apnea occur more often in men than women (the ratio is 2:1) although this difference disappears after menopause.

Snoring is produced by structures vibrating in the airways - and, in particular, the soft palate and uvula against the back of the throat.

During snoring, the flow of air into the lungs remains continuous. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, involves the complete closing, or blockage, of the upper airways and results in the temporary cessation of breathing for at least 10 seconds at a time.

OSA can be a serious medical problem that puts severe strain on the cardiovascular system. If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, some estimates suggest that more than 75 per cent of OSA cases remain undiagnosed.

A number of physical features can contribute to the development of OSA, such as increased body weight, a long soft palate, enlarged tongue, tonsils or adenoids, deviated nasal septum and improper alignment of the jaw.

People who suffer from OSA may be unaware that they stop breathing while asleep, let alone for a minute or more at a time and with a frequency that leaves bed partners in fear for their lives.

Five interruptions of breathing per hour is considered clinically significant, but the number of events may be greater than 100 an hour. Fortunately for those who do not sleep alone, a partner witnessing interrupted breathing provides powerful evidence of a problem and good reason to seek professional help.

Sleep apnea can produce some symptoms that are sometimes recognized by a person who suffers from the condition. Because pauses in breathing cause temporary oxygen deprivation and accumulation of CO{-2} in the bloodstream, breathing often restarts with a deep and awakening gasp, and a feeling as though one resurfaced after having been underwater for a while. Waking up gasping is, therefore, one important clue.

Even when there is no recollection of awakening, sleep has been disrupted and lacks its normal restorative qualities. A frequent complaint is: "I sleep throughout the night but I wake up as tired as I was when I went to bed."

Daytime sleepiness can become so severe that OSA sufferers nod off to sleep, especially in passive situations such as reading, watching TV or sitting in a meeting.

Furthermore, having one's brain on an all-night oxygen roller coaster can cause morning headaches, which usually dissipate within a few hours.

Difficulties in concentrating and memorizing, mood changes (irritability and/or feeling depressed), a frequent need to urinate during the night, erectile dysfunction and increased blood pressure are other symptoms associated with the condition.

If you suspect that you or your partner has OSA, a referral for a sleep study can be obtained from a doctor. An overnight study involves sleeping in a clinic equipped to monitor brain activity, breathing, heart rate and oxygen levels in the blood. There are a variety of effective treatments for OSA. More information can be found on the website sleepontario.com.

Dr. Nada Huterer-Salahovic is the manager of the Sleep and Alertness Clinic of the Toronto Western Hospital.