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Spousal Arousal Syndrome: Sleeping with a Snoring Spouse

Monday, April 9, 2012 at 1:07PM

Spouses of snorers can suffer significantly

Silence is golden. But for spouses of snorers, it also may feel unattainable. In fact, the non-snoring partner may wake multiple times an hour and lose an average of two hours of sleep each night — even if they don’t remember waking. Researchers who have studied this issue have labeled it Spousal Arousal Syndrome (SAS). And, the consequences are significant.

Lack of sleep due to SAS can cause daytime fatigue and irritability, weight gain, higher blood pressure and memory issues. Additionally, the non-snoring partner also has an increased propensity for accidents or illness and many other problems associated with sleep deprivation. Furthermore, they also may struggle with low self-esteem and have a decreased interest in sex. Snoring also can affect the overall happiness of the marriage. In fact, most couples who deal with snoring on a regular basis have argued over the nighttime noise and some reports indicate that as many as 80 percent of them sleep apart on a regular basis. Besides the grouchiness that comes with the lack of sleep, couples often argue about the severity of the snoring. Most often, this is because snoring partners don’t realize how bad their snoring truly is. For this reason, many experts recommend that non-snoring partners video record their partners so they can see just how bad the nightly noise can be.

But there is hope for struggling couples. A study conducted by the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland found that heavy snorers with sleep apnea who underwent treatment reported better sex lives and improved relationships. As a result, the first step then is to get snoring partners to realize they have a problem.

* First, be supportive and don’t blame them. Snoring is not a choice but a symptom of a problem. Many times, snorers are completely unaware of the extent to which they are snoring. Use a video recording to help them acknowledge that there is a problem.

* Express love and concern. Let them know how snoring can cause health issues

* Work together to find reasons behind the snoring. For instance, drinking alcohol before bed, excessive weight and sleeping on their back can all make snoring worse. Then, work together to change these issues and see if the snoring improves.

* Be creative. For example, try sleeping back to back. Not only does side sleeping make snoring less of an issue, but when couples are facing in opposite directions, the snoring won’t be as loud. Another idea is to attach a tennis ball to the snoring partner’s pajamas — especially if he or she is prone to sleeping on his or her back. With this method, snorers start out sleeping on their side and once asleep if they try to roll to their back, the tennis ball makes it uncomfortable, keeping them on their side. Non-snoring partners can try going to bed 30 minutes to an hour before their partners. And some non-snoring partners have used ear muffs and white noise machines to help lessen the noise and rest more easily.

* Get professional input on the snoring issue especially if the snoring partner is gasping for breath, making choking or snorting sounds, or appears to stop breathing. These characteristics could be signs of a serious sleep disorder that requires medical treatment.

Finally, don’t try to ignore snoring. Work together to find a healthy solution. Even if you aren’t the one snoring, you both are affected.

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