If you’re married or in a long-term relationship with someone who snores while they sleep, you know it’s no joke. While cartoons might poke fun at snoring characters, it isn’t the same when you’re awakened in the middle of the night by your partner’s snoring. Instead, you’re probably left tired and angry by the next morning.
For many couples, snoring is a familiar problem: according to a 2009 survey by the National Sleep Foundation one-third of adults admitted to snoring at least a few nights per week. The problem of snoring occurs when breathing is obstructed during sleep either from allergies, a deviated septum, or problems that occur in the back of the throat. Specifically, some people have long soft pallets, a large uvula, tongue, tonsils, or adenoids that cause there to be less room in the back of the throat for airflow.
Snoring can range anywhere from a mild problem to a severe condition that requires surgery. For example, some people may relieve their snoring by taking a nasal decongestant when experiencing allergies, while others may need surgery to remove enlarged tonsils or the uvula. Similarly, some people’s snoring may be related to their obesity, where weight loss would help lessen the problem.
However, another condition can also explain the problem of snoring: sleep apnea, which is a serious sleep disorder. During sleep apnea the airway collapses, causing the person to awaken several times during the night. Luckily, sleep apnea can be treated with an oxygen mask or dental device but the problem must first be identified—which can become a feat in itself.
As expected, both the snorer and their partner can lose sleep and quickly become fatigued and easily irritated. Ironically, many couples seek counseling for a troubled relationship without realizing that snoring is the underlying problem. Unfortunately, when a partner confronts their snoring counterpart, it’s common for the snorer to deny the problem or accuse their partner of exaggerating. According to experts, it is important for both partners to accept the problem as equally their own, as a couple. Avoid blaming, because that only leads to emotional and often physical separation during sleep times. Solving the problem may require medical help, so see your primary physician for a referral to a sleep clinic or an ear, nose, and throat specialist if the problem is diagnosed as nasal. Most importantly, if you can’t sleep together, make time to cuddle—watch a movie, listen to music, or just spend time lying together in bed to keep intimacy and the relationship alive.