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Supporting your snoring partner through sleep apnea, according to a sleep coach


(Photo : Lux Graves / Unsplash)

Cozying up next to your partner at the end of a long day and getting a good night’s rest is something most people are looking forward to. But what if just as you get all comfortable and ready to fall asleep, the deafening chainsaw noises emitted by your partner are jolting you back into wakefulness? You may try to gently stroke your partner’s face or roll him a bit to make the snoring stop but to no avail. You realize you are about to have yet another restless or even sleepless night. Sharing a bedroom becomes a challenge and you feel frustrated with your snoring loved one.

If this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone! About 45 percent of adults snore occasionally and 25 percent on a regular basis. However, whether it’s a mere nuisance or a total nightmare to deal with, snoring could be masking a larger health issue, such as sleep apnea. By now, you may have mentioned this to your partner and possibly even suggested that they see a doctor. However, many ignore or postpone dealing with the issue as they feel worried, embarrassed, or simply think it’s “no big deal”. Having a partner that can inform them on the subject and provide positive support can make all the difference and gently nudge them into getting the help they need.

Knowing what to look out for is critical, so here are three handy tips to help you and your partner on your journey to quieter sleep:

Tip #1: Understanding and recognizing the issue

According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea is a condition in which a person is unable to breathe properly throughout the night due to blockage of the airways. This causes brief stops in breathing that disrupt sleep, even though the person is often unaware of it. Here are a few signs to look out for that may indicate sleep apnea:

  • Loud snoring – Snoring is the sound of your body struggling to breathe naturally. When the airway is blocked, the soft tissue at the back of the throat vibrates as air struggles to push through. This vibrating is what causes the sound of snoring. While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, it is a prominent indicator that should not be ignored.
  • Breathing problems during sleep – Waking up gasping or choking for air as well as pauses in breathing during sleep are red flags. There are two types of sleep apnea (and a mixed version), but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea, when your throat muscles relax and block your airway, causing you to stop breathing for a few seconds at a time, several times a minute, up to hundreds of times per night. These numerous, repeated breathing events can lead to nighttime arousals (we are often not conscious of), fragmented and low-quality sleep.
  • Daytime drowsiness – Feeling excessively sleepy and fatigued despite having enough time to sleep, are often the daytime signs seen in people with sleep apnea. This can cause the person to fall asleep in situations ranging from sitting in front of the TV to more dangerous or undesired times, such as driving, or during work.
  • Age, weight, and gender – The risk factors triad: older age, higher weight, and being a male. Sleep apnea is most common in overweight men over the age of 50, however about 10 percent of women will also suffer from this condition, mainly post-menopause. Although less common, babies and children can suffer from this condition as well.

Tip #2: Getting the help your partner needs

Since many people aren’t aware that they are snoring loudly or experiencing breathing problems during their sleep, bed-partners have an integral role in addressing the issue.

Find supportive and compassionate ways to talk to your partner about their snoring problem and remember they may need some time to acknowledge and deal with the issue.
Even though they may be reluctant or even feel embarrassed to talk about it, keep in mind that you are caring for their (and your) health and well-being!

Tip #3: Sleeping with a snorer

Supporting your partner through their sleep diagnosis and treatment is important, but how do you get quality sleep in the meantime?

  • Earplugs – to help drown out the snoring sounds
  • White noise or soothing ambiance sounds – you can use a designated white noise device or create a “playlist” of white/pink noises on your phone. Soothing, repetitive sounds can help mask a noisy surroundings and create a sleep-promoting environment.
  • Going to bed earlier than your partner – this can give you the chance to fall asleep before the snoring commences

Snoring can challenge even the most loving relationships, but it doesn’t have to! Hopefully, this knowledge will equip you with knowledge of how to get healthy sleep for yourself and best advise and support your partner through their sleep journey. Through understanding what to look out for, you are a critical piece in helping yourself and your partner get the help they need, bringing the two of you closer than ever before.

About the Author

Laura Glasner

(Photo : Laura Glasner)

Laura Glasner (MS) is a clinical psychologist in training, working in the field of sleep problems for almost a decade. She currently works as a Senior Sleep Coach and Sleep Researcher in the clinical science unit at dayzz, an AI-based app transforming sleep health using scientifically-backed sleep programs. She is dedicated to developing valid, scalable screening and treatment options for sleep conditions.

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