If you’ve got a partner who snores, or you’re a snorer yourself, you know firsthand how it can affect the relationship (as well as your sleep). HENCEL TORRES is the Clinical Sleep Educator at Snore Solutions International, a practice dedicated to the treatment of snoring using safe and effective therapies. He thinks we need to pay more attention to the effect it has on marriages. And he has some some solutions for you.
Often, snoring is due to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a serious, chronic condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. When people with OSA sleep, the airway collapses, causing reduced or complete cessation of airflow despite ongoing breathing efforts, explains Hencel. “These disruptions cause oxygen levels to drop and are associated with a brief awakening from sleep. This recurring breathing cycle causes fragmented sleep, daytime sleepiness, poor concentration and an increased risk of accidents.”
The person with OSA isn’t the only one waking up during the night. When the apnea is accompanied by loud snorts and snoring, the bed partner may wake almost as often. A Mayo Clinic study found that partners of OSA sufferers woke up, at least partially, an average of 21 times per hour, compared to 27 times for the snorers themselves.
It’s no wonder that couples who grapple with snoring have relationship complications; the snoring partner who feels “dragged” to the doctor’s office is annoyed, while the spouse is frustrated and tired from a lack of sleep. Many couples often end up sleeping in separate bedrooms.
Studies have also found that couples with snoring problems argue more than couples that don’t experience such issues – indeed, research shows they’re more likely to get a divorce. Additionally, people who sleep with snorers are at a higher risk of hearing loss, particularly in the ear exposed to the snoring
Regardless of whether snoring affects your relationship, it’s crucial to see a doctor if you snore. This is because OSA has been linked to increased risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, anxiety and depression. (In other words: if left untreated, your marriage won’t be your only problem.)
What can be done?
While earplugs can drown out the noise, they don’t prove to be a practical solution for most people. The good news is, snoring and OSA can be identified and treated. The snorer will first be evaluated to determine the severity of the sleep apnea and the appropriate treatment route. “Evaluation often involves overnight monitoring at a sleep centre where your breathing and other body functions are assessed during sleep,” says Hencel. “These tests usually measure your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow and breathing patterns.” Another option is home sleep testing, which involves an assessment in the comfort of your own home.
For milder cases of OSA, doctors usually recommend lifestyle changes. These can include losing weight or quitting smoking, or sleeping on one’s side (Positional Therapy). But, if a patient’s sleep apnea is moderate to severe, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is usually recommended.
“CPAP delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep,” says Hencel. “The air acts like a splint to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring. CPAP can prevent or reverse the serious consequences of obstructive sleep apnea.” Benefits include reduced risks of heart disease, stroke and cancer, increased insulin sensitivity, and better sleep patterns, concentration, daytime alertness and emotional stability.
“Another option is wearing an oral appliance device designed to move your lower jaw forward, creating more airway space,” adds Hencel. “Surgery is usually only an option after other treatments have failed.”
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