How to Deal with a Snoring Spouse
It can take its toll on any couple and is one of the most common problems in the bedroom. Snoring. Not exactly the kind of heavy breathing and loud noises you want coming from under the sheets.
"Snoring isn’t just a nuisance," says Dr. Adam Moscovitch, Medical Director of the Canadian Sleep Institute, which has offices in Calgary and Toronto. If you have a spouse who snored, "it can have a tremendous impact on your sleep, your ability to function while awake, and your relationship."
Two thirds of Canadian adults (73% of women and 58% of men) say they have a partner who snores, according to a national survey by Leger Marketing in April 2008.
Those bedroom blasts can have a wide range of implications. In the survey, the non-snoring spouses reported losing 1 to 3 hours of sleep a night due to a restless sleep. No wonder, given that the sound of snoring typically measures 60 to 90 decibels. "That’s equivalent to a jackhammer breaking up asphalt on the road," Moscovitch says.
Suffering From Snoring
"The sleep deprivation, or the lack of a refreshing sleep, can contribute to irritability, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty with memory and concentration," he notes. Among other consequences, that can decrease work productivity, increase bickering between the spouses, and create a more stressful home environment.
Snoring can also damage a couple’s sex life. In the Leger Marketing survey, 20% of women who have snoring partners said they had less desire to have sex because of it. Sex can be a casualty for another reason: 25% of Canadians say they’ve tried sleeping in another room because of their partner’s snoring.
"And that can be the start of a slippery slope," says Dr. Richard Horner, an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, and Canada Research Chair in Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology.
While the snoring may have been the root problem, says Horner, moving into separate bedrooms has its own negative effect on intimacy.
Despite the prevalence of snoring, and its widespread impact on sleep, moods and relationships, it is often accepted as a not-so-silent epidemic, says Smith. In fact, about two-thirds of Canadians have never done anything to stop snoring.
Poking and Prodding
When people do try to reduce the impact of their partner’s snoring, popular tactics include poking, elbowing or kicking the snorer. If that works at all, it’s because the snorer momentarily wakes up. "But as a solution, it’s about as useful as putting a pillow over the other person’s face," says Moscovitch. In fact, people can take a number of steps to curb their snoring, from losing weight to changing sleeping positions.
There are other simple strategies to make your life easier if you’re the non-snoring spouse: Wear earplugs at night. Get a bigger bed if your room allows ("It’s easier to sleep if the snorer is 20 inches away than if they’re two inches away," says Moscovitch.) Or drown out the sound by wearing headphones to bed and falling asleep to music or some other relaxing sound. (Horner’s choice, when his wife "occasionally" snores, is BBC soccer updates downloaded to his iPod.)
The non-snoring partner also has a key role to play in pushing for a solution. "Often, the snorer isn’t aware of how bad the problem is, or minimizes it," Moscovitch says. "Most of our patients come to us because somebody gave them an ultimatum."
His message is that snoring shouldn’t be accepted as just part of sleep, but should be seen as something that’s treatable and correctable, whether with assistance from medical professionals or tactics you can try on your own. That’s encouraging news for anyone who has struggled with a sound sleep because of the sounds of sleep.
Sign up for our weekly health newsletter and have our latest articles on healthy living delivered right to your inbox.