Snoring doesn't just interfere with the snorer's sleep. When it comes to couples, one person's snoring often means sleep trouble for two. And it isn't only sleep that can suffer. Snoring can put great strain on relationships. A snoring problem often creates not only tiredness but also frustration and resentment between couples. It can interfere with sexual and emotional intimacy, and can push couples to sleep in separate bedrooms.
There are many good reasons to treat snoring, including restoring sleep quality, guarding against risks to health, and improving daytime functioning. Protecting the health and intimacy of your relationship is another important reason to treat a snoring problem.
How can snoring cause so much trouble within a relationship? Snoring, a form of sleep-disordered breathing, interferes with sleep quality and sleep quantity, both for the person who snores, and, often, for the person who sleeps with a snorer. Poor quality and insufficient sleep interfere with our thinking skills and judgment. Lack of sleep can make us irritable and short-tempered. Poor sleep diminishes our ability to manage conflict well, increasing negative feelings and reducing our ability to empathize. Lack of sleep has been shown in scientific research to make couples feel less appreciative of each other, and to experience greater feelings of selfishness. Sound like a recipe for relationship difficulties? It is.
What's more, snoring itself can become a focal point of both frustration and shame within the dynamic of a couple's relationship. The person who is kept awake (or who has to shuffle off to the spare bedroom in the middle of the night) may grow to feel resentful of his or her snoring partner. The snorer, meanwhile, often feels guilty, ashamed, and helpless about their noisy, disruptive sleep. These feelings can be a real source of irritation and isolation for even very loving couples.
It's no surprise that snoring often sends couples to separate bedrooms in search of undisturbed rest. Some couples may find that sleeping apart suits them well, and doesn't diminish their feelings of closeness. But many couples very much want to sleep together -- but can't, because of a snoring issue. Sleeping apart can interfere with intimacy, sexual and emotional. Couples may find themselves having sex less often when they're regularly sleeping apart. Partners also may miss the physical closeness of sleeping together, and the emotional bond that it confers for many people.
Snoring isn't the only reason that couples resort to sleeping apart. Different schedules and different preferences for bedtimes and wake times may lead couples to separate sleeping spaces. Issues within a couple's sleep environment -- a room that's too hot, or too bright, or a bed that's too small -- can also drive couples to different rooms. But snoring is a common reason. Think you're alone in sleeping separately from your partner? Far from it. Estimates vary, but recent studies and surveys indicate that anywhere from 25 percent to 40 percent of couples are regularly sleeping in separate bedrooms.
It doesn't need to be this way. Tending to a snoring problem can pave the way for couples to sleep peacefully -- and quietly -- together, and help to improve the way couples relate to one another during their waking day.
EPAP (expiratory positive airway pressure) presents one of the most effective -- and couple-friendly -- therapies available to reduce or eliminate snoring. EPAP, which uses the sleeper's own exhaling breath to help alleviate snoring, is the next evolution in positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, which has been successful for many years in treating forms of sleep-disordered breathing. Theravent uses EPAP therapy to keep the upper airway open and unobstructed during sleep, reducing the vibration of tissue at the back of the throat that creates the disruptive noise of snoring.
Unlike continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which requires a mask worn over the face and a machine to supply a constant stream of air, Theravent's EPAP technology uses only a small adhesive device worn just under the nostrils. The Theravent device contains micro-valves that harness the sleeper's breath to provide air pressure to keep the upper airway open, and reduce or eliminate snoring.
One significant issue with CPAP is compliance -- the willingness and ability of a patient to use the device regularly and as directed. The equipment required for CPAP therapy is one reason why it isn't always used consistently. Theravent's EPAP device is small and unobtrusive. The snorer in your relationship may find Theravent's small, device easier to use regularly. And without a mouthpiece or a machine, couples may find it easier to enjoy sleeping close and unencumbered.
Tending to a snoring issue can lead to better sleep for both partners, as well as a more loving and harmonious relationship that includes sleeping together, not apart. Sleeping well with the person we love is the goal, and by treating snoring effectively, it can happen.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™