Snoring is funny in sitcoms. But in real life it’s no laughing matter.
The National Sleep Foundation website estimates that 90 million Americans snore, 37 million on a regular basis. While all ages and genders snore, twice as many men than women snore nearly every night.
According to the foundation, snoring occurs when the muscles of your throat relax, the tongue falls backward, and your throat becomes narrow and floppy. Breathing causes the throat to vibrate, leading to the all too familiar sound of snoring.
Contributing factors include obesity, aging, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, allergies and sleeping on your back. Alcohol is a muscle relaxant and, when consumed in the evening, increases the potential for snoring. Smoking irritates and inflames the upper airways.
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Snoring can wreak havoc on relationships. Scientists have coined the term Spousal Arousal Syndrome to describe the disruption of sleep caused by a partner’s snoring.
A 1999 study by John Shepard, M.D., the former medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, found that partners of heavy snorers lose an average of one hour of sleep per night. They can wake up as many as 21 times an hour, and 80 percent of couples frequently resort to sleeping in separate bedrooms.
It’s especially problematic when female sleep partners are light sleepers or are battling their own form of insomnia. They can experience physical repercussions, such as daytime fatigue, irritability, weight gain, high blood pressure and memory issues.
Women desperately poke, shake or kick their unknowing bedmates. Too often their efforts go unheeded. Worse yet, snorers may deny there’s even a problem. Partners feel powerless and unheard. Their self-esteem plummets. All interest in sex vanishes.
The key is to address the issue head on. Don’t sleep on it. Your relationship is at stake.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.
How to deal with a spouse’s snoring
- View snoring as a health concern. It’s not a personal failing, and it’s not a deliberate attempt to get under your skin.
- Tackle the snoring problem together. Only one of you is kept awake, but both of you suffer as a result. Take a team approach to treating it.
- Get a full medical evaluation. Rule out serious health concerns. Give your health provider’s suggestions a try.
- Encourage your spouse to shed pounds, quit smoking or drink less before bedtime.
- Wear ear plugs.
- Use a white noise machine. The sound of waves or wind may drown out the snoring or infuse much-needed calm into the bedroom.
- Consider sleeping separately. Make ample time for talking, cuddling and sex. Greet each other in the morning with a sweet kiss to start the day.