If you are desperate to learn how to stop snoring because of the problems it’s causing in your relationship, you are far from alone.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, snoring “affects approximately 90 million American adults — 37 million on a regular basis.”
This noisy breathing isn’t only problematic for the physical health of an individual who snores, but it frequently creates a hotbed of serious relationship and marriage problems.
Let’s talk about Samantha.
Samantha is tired and having trouble concentrating at work. She sometimes has to re-read emails several times because she can’t focus. In meetings, she struggles to stay awake. She drinks energy drinks and coffee all the day to keep from nodding off at her desk. She’s in a constant funk and wonders what’s wrong with her.
If only she could just get a good night’s sleep …
Thinking it over, Samantha believes she could be more productive and less grouchy at work if her husband Timothy’s snoring didn’t wake her up several times each night. This also makes her feel guilty, because she loves him and knows he really can’t help his snoring. She continues to trying to “just deal with it” without saying anything to Timothy.
Over time, grows increasingly exhausted, and the tack of sleep contributing to the following problems at work:
- Memory problems
- Trouble multitasking
- Difficulty problem-solving
- Impaired decision-making
- Frequent headaches
- Decreased productivity
These negative effects are enough to stress anyone out, making the problem worse. And that’s only part of the issue. A lack of sleep can also cause relationship issues, given it leads to irritability, agitation, heightened emotional sensitivity, argumentativeness, grumpiness and more.
And while she doesn’t know it, the lack of sleep is setting her up for increased risk of other physical health issues like stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
According to the 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll, “61% of adults sleep with a significant other, and one-quarter to one-third of married or cohabitating adults report that their intimate relationships are adversely affected by their own or their spouse’s excessive sleepiness or sleep problems. Recent qualitative studies from interview data suggest that sleep problems in one or both partners, including insomnia symptoms and sleep-disordered breathing, contribute to marital problems. In addition … women living with snorers were three times as likely to report symptoms of insomnia compared to women living with nonsnorers, suggesting that a sleep disorder in one spouse may increase risk for a sleep disorder in the other spouse, perhaps leading to additive or synergistic effects on the relationship quality.”
Additionally, studies show that snoring causes the snorer themselves to suffer from daytime sleepiness even though they have been sound asleep all night.
After all, a disturbed night’s sleep does more than just leave you tired.
A nationwide study out of the University of Arizona found that approximately 66 percent of people say a lack of sleep makes them more likely to crave unhealthy food.
And when researchers at UC Berkeley used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans in a study of healthy young adults, they found that “participants favored unhealthy snack and junk foods when they were sleep deprived.”
This news isn’t great for your waistline or your romantic relationships.
After all, a family-sized portion of chips isn’t what gets most people in the mood to hop into bed and have sex or fall asleep!
Unfortunately, as common as snoring is, it may have even more of an impact on marriages than most couples think.
Marital complaints about snoring aren’t only common, but the problem is one that can have significant implications for both partners, as well as for their relationship as a whole.
Sleep is crucial to our cognitive functioning, our physical health and our mental health.
Disrupted sleep can cause impairments in judgment, decision making, learning and general cognitive functioning. In addition, it can hamper our moods and lead to irritability, anxiety and even depression.
As for our relationships, snoring often fosters deep resentments between partners, eroding their feelings for one another and damaging their emotional and physical intimacy.
While the causes vary, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reports that about half of normal adults “snore at some point in their lives,” adding that snoring “appears to run in families and becomes more common as you get older. About 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women are habitual snorers.”
Many people are unaware of their nightly habit and only discover that they snore when a partner lets them know.
It’s not uncommon for people to be in complete denial about their snoring, because of course, they can’t hear it!
But even when there is awareness there is often also blame: “I don’t snore, I just breathe heavily. You must be a really light sleeper!”
Yet some people have been found to snore at over 100 decibels. That’s louder than a low-flying jet!
“This is a frequent problem within marriages that nobody is paying enough attention to,” says Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, founder of the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University. “Couples who struggle with sleep apnea have a high-divorce rate.”
Commenting on her work leading The Married Couples Sleep Study, she states, “Our early results are showing that the wife’s sleep is indeed deprived due to the husband’s noisy nights. This is not a mild problem. The lack of sleep for both partners puts a strain on the marriage and creates a hostile and tense situation.”
After one snoring spouse participating in the study underwent two weeks of treatment at home using a CPAP machine, she reveals, the wife’s quality of life measure improved dramatically. Her sleepiness scale, which measures how tired she feels during the day, dropped 50 percent, and her marital satisfaction scores improved by over 90 percent.
If sleep disturbances are causing problems in your relationship, here are 6 tips to help you or your partner stop snoring.
1. Figure out the cause of the snoring
The first thing to do if you have a snoring spouse is to attempt to manage the snoring and restore the quality of sleep you both get.
Ask yourself how long it’s been since you first noticed them snoring. Is it only recent or has it been happening for a while? Examining the snoring habit may offer insight into what may be causing the issue in the first place.
There are two types of factors that contribute to snoring: temporary and structural.
Temporary factors including consumption of alcohol, excessive smoking, seasonal allergies, swollen tonsils, sleeping position and the cold or flu occur for a short time and are not permanent. For example, smoking can inflame airways, pollen may cause an allergic reaction, while alcohol and medication can relax the muscles within the throat, all of which restricts airflow. Generally removing these temporary causes may solve the problem and restore quiet to the bedroom once again.
Structural factors are more long-term and include excessive weight, particularly around the neck and the shape of their palate, nose and jaw.
Snoring secondary to structural issues can also be an indicator of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This is where your airway relaxes and narrows, reducing or stopping airflow to your lungs while you sleep. Sufferers can stop breathing hundreds of times a night. Sleep apnoea is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and depression. Signs of the condition are loud snoring, gasping or snorting during sleep, poor memory, irritability and a lack of interest in sex.
2. Stagger your bedtimes
If you know your partner snores, perhaps a simple solution may be to go to bed earlier than they do. This will give you plenty of time to relax and fall asleep in silence before they join you later on.
3. Play soft music or white noise
Gentle background sounds, such as white-noise or soft instrumental music, may help mask the snoring noise so that you can improve the quality of your sleep. The removal of the noise may be a temporary solution to the snoring issue.
4. Wear earplugs
Wearing soft and non-invasive earplugs will help you block out the sound so you can get a better night’s sleep.
5. Keep a glass of water on the snorer’s nightstand
Having a dry mouth or throat can amplify snoring sounds as the passageways lose their flexibility. Keeping a glass of water conveniently beside the bed will help your partner remain hydrated before and during the night which will soften the passageways and allow easier breathing.
6. Sleep in separate rooms
Finally, while it’s never desirable for partners to sleep apart, especially over longer periods of time, sleeping in different rooms during the night can help you get some relief.
The challenge is when this becomes the “norm” rather than the exception and intimacy dwindles.
If you find that these solutions don’t work, there are a number of devices on the market that can help you breathe easier, sleep better, and maintain a healthier relationship.
However, it is strongly suggested that you first talk with your healthcare provider about the symptoms you are experiencing and your overall sleep hygiene.
Unfortunately, while snoring doesn’t have to be a problem for your love life, it’s still a health problem.
Snoring is a medical condition, not a personal failing.
Don’t exacerbate your sleeplessness with an outburst of anger.
If occasional snoring becomes nightly, consider together whether there have been any changes in a partner’s health or behavior that could contribute to the increase.
Regardless, be gentle with your spouse and discuss this in a non-confrontational manner — and not when you both are trying to get some zzzs.
And a concluding thought: although occasionally prodding and poking a snoring spouse is fine if you’re counting on a long and happy marriage, beware of resentment they may feel about your shoving, get to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible instead.
Dr. Lisa Webb is the author of the “Executive Marriage Solution: Translating Boardroom Success into Bedroom Bliss”. She is also an entrepreneur, President and CEO of Body & Mind Consulting, and Chief Relationship Officer at Executive Relationship Advisor.