Nose clips, teeth braces, padded vests and respiration equipment; Dr Josef Alexander Wirth, a German physician, is constantly searching for any gadget aimed at solving an age-old problem – snoring.
Dr Wirth, 67, runs his unique museum devoted to the subject in the central German town of Alfeld.
A sleeping disorder specialist, Dr Wirth has collected many oddities, as well as truly educational items, about snoring.
“Up until around the age of 50, it is men who are overwhelmingly the snorers. But after menopause, women catch up,” he says.
His hope is that visitors “enter the museum laughing and leave it educated”.
After floods last summer ruined his previous museum, Dr Wirth recently set up a new museum consisting of some 300 display items in four thematically-arranged rooms. One room contains a sleep laboratory from 1985. Scarcely any other human ailment has inspired so many inventions since the 19th century as snoring.
Depending on where the snoring happens, the gadgets were applied on various places of the body.
Often, it occurs when sleeping on one’s back, with the snorer emitting any number of sounds – sawing, rattling, loud breathing – created when breathing through the nose is obstructed and the pharynx muscles relax.
Statistically speaking, just about everyone who has a cold or has imbibed too much alcohol, snores.
About two-thirds of the population are habitual snorers.
“Solutions to the problem can be found only individually,” says Dr Wirth. Many aids simply don’t work, but people should also not rush into having an operation on, say, the nasal septum or the uvula – that cone-shaped piece of flesh hanging down from the palate.
Visitors may be more than amused that one of the display objects is a didgeridoo from Australia.
Swiss researchers found that playing the instrument can help patients suffering from a slight case of apnoea – when breathing becomes shallow, or even stops while asleep – because it strengthens the muscles that keep the breathing passageways open.
Dr Wirth’s museum attracts about a thousand visitors each year, and the doctor also leads apnoea self-help groups through the rooms.
He not only collects items, but has also done historical research into the snoring problem.
At the moment, he is working with a classical scholar in translating from Latin into German what is believed to be the first academic dissertation on the subject, titled “About The Snoring of the Sleeping Person” from 1745.
“The original copy was discovered just last year in the Magdeburg university library,” he shares. – dpa