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Snoring advice for partners

The subject of snoring partners has stirred up quite a storm recently after This Morning raised the topic concerning sleeping habits in the TMHub. According to the show’s researchers couples lose up to 90 minutes a week of sleep by arguing in bed. They sparked numerous Twitter conversations on the social network, using their hashtag to ask viewers if their partners fidget or snore, and if they bicker at bedtime.

It’s no secret that snoring can have a negative effect on relationships and this is one subject that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Marianne Davey, director of BSSAA says: “Our research shows that snorers are more likely to suffer from excessive sleepiness during the day, become irritable and bad- tempered, as well as depressed and anxious.

“We’ve found that snorers experience more health complaints and a poorer quality of life than non-snorers.

“Snorers will often experience social, psychological, employment and relationship difficulties as a result of their condition.”

According to a national survey by Leger Marketing, conducted in April 2008, non-snoring partners can lose between one to three hours of sleep a night due to restless sleep. This restlessness can then impact daily tasks such as driving. It has been reported by the Department of Transport that one in five road traffic accidents are the result of fatigue. The Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in regards to sleep apnoea, have put in place regulations that must be abided by to prevent people from sleeping at the wheel. Car and motorcycle drivers must stop driving until their symptoms are under control and this has been confirmed by a medical specialist. For LGV drivers, the same regulation applies, but most also undergo regular licensing reviews. If you’d like more information about the regulations pick up the DVLA leaflet ‘Think! Tiredness Can Kill’.

If that wasn’t enough sleep deprivation can cause serious accidents at work, especially if you’re required to operate heavy machinery, forklift trucks or cranes.

Snoring has a widespread impact on sleep, mood and relationships, of which intimacy can also suffer. According to the Leger survey 20% of women subjected to the snores their partner produces said they were less inclined to be intimate because of it.

It’s common to hear that so desperate is the snorer or non-snoring partner to sleep peacefully that they will sleep in separate rooms.  "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. Moving to separate rooms can have its own negative effect on the relationship and intimacy.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is caused by the vibration of soft tissue as you breathe during sleep. This can occur in the nasal passages, the roof of your mouth (vibration of the soft palate and tissue) and tonsils. It can be infrequent and produce a soft sound or can happen every night and produce an intrusive noise. On average the noise produced by snoring can be measured between 60 to 90 decibels, the “equivalent to a jackhammer breaking up asphalt on the road," says Dr. Adam Moscovitch, Medical director of the Canadian Sleep Institute, so it’s no wonder why many partners look for cures.

When you sleep your airways relax and narrow causing the tissue to vibrate as air pressure rises. Snoring can also be related to health factors concerning smoking, alcohol consumption, being overweight and suffering from a cold that causes your airways to be partially blocked.

What’s more pressing is that snoring can be a symptom of a far greater sleeping condition, apnoea. This condition affects the snorer’s sleep to the point where he or she can’t breathe properly for about 10 seconds and awakens gasping for air throughout the night. If this is happening to your partner, we’d recommend you seek medical advice from your GP. When assessing somebody’s snoring, healthcare professionals use a grading system that indicates the severity of the problem. The highest grade is grade 3 – snoring occurs every night and at high volumes, which could be related to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

What can the snorer do?

When wanting to treat snoring there are a number of things your partner can do, which entails a few lifestyle changes. Losing weight is often the first recommendation your GP will offer your partner, along with reducing alcohol consumption and to stop smoking. However, if your partner is not overweight, doesn’t smoke and only drinks occasionally, the treatment can come in the form of an anti-snoring device. These devices can include:

•    Mouth guards (Mandibular Advancement Devices)
•    Nasal strips
•    Sprays
•    Nasal rinses
•    CPAP machines and masks (for individuals that suffer from OSA)

As a last resort if none of the above improves your partner’s sleeping habits, surgery can be an option, which can involve the removal of tissue. However, please be aware that surgery can have a limited effect, lasting only a couple of years and can be unpleasant.

Elissa at Poor Man’s Feast commented on Apartment Therapy’s post to discuss her partner’s experience; “my partner, after trying everything, just had surgery to 1) remove her uvula, which was literally resting on the back of her throat; 2) correct her seriously deviated septum; 3) repair two nasal turbinates.

“It was NOT a pleasant surgery, but it was performed under general anaesthesia by the top doctor in New York. She is still recuperating, but already is breathing better. Apnoea is nothing to be taken lightly.”

What can non-snoring spouses do?

As the non-snoring partner in the relationship you can feel as if you’re getting the brunt of a bad situation, but there are a couple of solutions that can help you to sleep better. Recommendations for you include falling asleep listening to peaceful music through headphones or using ear plugs to block snoring.

You have a key role as the non-snoring partner and that is to push for a solution. The snorer is unaware of the problem and how it affects you, and can be ignorant to know that she or he snores. Moscovitch says; "most of our patients come to us because somebody gave them an ultimatum."

It is important to seek medical advice if your partner’s snores are having a detrimental effect on both your sleeping patterns. Have a go with a couple of the solutions that we’ve stated above and if none of them have helped it would be worth having a discussion with your GP to discover what options are available to you.

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