Sharing a bed with your partner can often be one of the great joys of a relationship. However, when one partner is a habitual snorer it can quickly turn a dream into a nightmare, resulting in sleepless nights, agitation, tiredness, and in the end a possible partnership breakdown.
Relationship problems aren’t the only issue to arise when the turbulent sounds of snoring invade the bedroom; there are also a number of serious health issues that can affect the snorer themselves which can have deadly health consequences.
Approximately 40 per cent of men suffer from snoring, while only 30 per cent of women snore most nights, according to data from The Sleep Health Foundation. It’s clear the problem is not only contained to a small contingent of the population.
In order to put an end to the sleepless nights for both you and your partner, Starts at 60 sought out the experts to identify the ways to treat and manage snoring, so you can find the best method for broaching the subject with your partner to ensure not only a sound resolution but also a sound sleep.
Medical expert Dr Vivek Eranki has worked in emergency departments, and across a broad range of medical fields. When Starts At 60 spoke with Dr Eranki about snoring, he shared that snoring can be caused by anything, from “the patient’s anatomy” to “alcohol consumption after dinner”.
“The thing about alcohol is [that] it also relaxes muscles in the throat, which then makes them more likely to collapse when breathing in or out.”
“There could be nasal problems such as deviated septums,” Dr Eranki shared. Additionally, Dr Eranki said “the position of the sleeper [has an impact] as well, so if someone is sleeping on their back then gravity is pushing the soft tissue down and hence people are more likely to snore. Essentially the diameter of the airway has gone down.”
However, Dr Eranki warned, “the most serious one that you need to look into [when it comes to snoring] is called obstructive sleep apnoea.”
“Obstructive sleep apnoea is an issue because it has a correlation with heart disease and stroke,” he said.
“Sleep apnoea causes spikes in blood pressure which increase our risk of getting strokes in the future. Having that investigated is quite simple,. Most of the time patients present because their partner has forced them to go to the GP because the patients snoring is basically waking them up.”
“So what the partner usually describes is essentially a breathing pattern that pauses during sleep, so people essentially are breathing then pause and they have a big snore in order to restore their breathing.”
In addition to the long term health side effects that obstructive sleep apnoea can cause, it can also lead to flow-on effects that can disrupt the sufferer’s day to day, including headaches and chest pains.
“The patients themselves register that ‘during the day I feel tired, during the day I feel exhausted, I’m having difficulty concentrating, I’m having to drink more coffee in order to have my focus’. Sometimes people wake up with headaches and chest pains as well and when this happens you need to present to the GP because the investigation for this is quite simple, its called a sleep study,” he said.
During the course of a sleep study, a sleep technician will be able to determine how many times the patient is waking up during the night, how many times their breathing pauses, and what their oxygen saturations levels are.
Once a patient has been assessed by a sleep technician and the cause of the snoring has been identified, Dr Eranki suggests the treatment can be quite simple.
“It could be as simple as lifestyle changes, avoiding alcohol or losing weight or sleeping on your side,” he said.
“Sometimes something as simple as a dental splint that advances the lower jaw forward could be enough [to stop the snoring], because it just elevates your tongue and soft tissue off the airway. But more often than not people end up usually getting a CPAP machine which keeps the airway open.
“Even though it seems like a major step in their lifestyle once it gets started patients usually say they have a lot more energy during the day.”
As Dr Eranki points out, treatment is crucial when snoring rears its ugly head to avoid serious health consequences down the line. However, broaching the subject with your partner can be a whole other battle altogether. Relationship expert Debbie Rivers highlighted several important factors to consider when bringing up a partner’s snoring and the strain snoring can have on a relationship.
“At worst, it can cause people to split up, because if you’ve ever been with a snorer it’s a nightmare,” she said.
“Some of the problem is the person that’s snoring doesn’t realise it’s as much of a problem as it is because they’re not having to put up with it.
“It’s not seeing why it’s such a big deal for the person is the biggest problem. In a lot of cases, they don’t get help. The issue is they don’t do anything, so the one person is changing their life, they’re accommodating and the other person won’t even get help.
“I know snoring is a huge deal for so many couples, it’s a difficult one to navigate and being able to understand what impact that has on the other person is important.”
Rivers recommended approaching the subject with your partner when you’re in a good frame of mind and not when you’re feeling “angry or frustrated”.
“It’s not what we say it’s how we say it. So the tone of voice makes a huge difference, if you use blame or criticism, making it a personal affront against the other person doesn’t help,” she said.
“Do it when you’re calm and when you can talk about things easily and just say ‘i feel’ so you’re not making it about the other person. You’re just telling them how you feel. If someone blames you for something it’s easy, and automatic to defend yourself, you just go into that default mode.”
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.