Approximately 37 million American adults snore on a regular basis—and that means many of their partners are walking around like sleep-deprived zombies. As anyone who has ever slept in the same room with a snorer can attest, the sound of a chainsaw going off as you’re trying to get some shut-eye is more than a minor annoyance. In fact, partners of snorers report serious fatigue because the snoring makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
That sleep deprivation, in turn, can cause all kinds of physical and mental health issues, including irritability, anxiety, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, and decreased work productivity. Sleep deprivation brought on by snoring can also lead to resentment between partners and contribute to a loss of physical and emotional intimacy.
Snoring isn’t all fun and games for the snorer, either. The issue happens when a sleeping person can’t freely move air through their nose and throat; this causes the surrounding tissues to vibrate and make that all-too-familiar nasally roar. Snoring on a regular basis may contribute to high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, hearing loss, and even Alzheimer’s.
So what’s the partner of a snorer to do? Here are eight ways to make sure that you get the sleep you need while prioritizing the health of both you and your partner.
1. Determine whether the snoring is position-dependent
Many people only snore when they sleep on their backs, so encouraging your partner to develop a habit of sleeping on their side may be an easy way to silence the snores. To assist their learning process, try propping up pillows to prevent your partner from flipping onto their back in their sleep. If that’s not cutting it, try sewing a ping pong ball into a small pocket on the back of your partner’s pajama tops—lying on the ball won’t feel comfortable, so your partner will naturally stay off their back while sleeping.
2. Invest in a bigger bed
Snoring will feel less invasive if you have more space between your head and your partner’s offending face. If you have the room, it may be extra helpful to place a wall of pillows between your heads. A comfortable mattress can also make it easier to fall and stay asleep.
3. Drown it out
Some people find relief by wearing headphones to bed and drifting off to soothing sounds or music (Just be sure not to crank the volume as this can lead to hearing loss). A white noise machine, earplugs, or other noise-canceling gadgets may also do the trick.
4. Develop healthy sleep habits
While you may not be able to control whether your partner snores, you can control the steps you take to get ready for bed. A calming bedtime routine will set you up for the best chances of getting a good night’s sleep—snores or no snores. Try to practice these pre-sleep rituals every night (and encourage your partner to join you). Avoid alcohol and caffeine, and don’t smoke, exercise, or eat a big meal close to bedtime. Learn how to cope with insomnia and create a restful sleep environment by keeping the bedroom cool and dark, avoiding exposure to electronics before bed, and designating the bed for sleeping (and sex) only.
5. Have your partner try breathing strips
While they tend to be most effective in treating acute (as opposed to long-term) cases of snoring, nasal strips can be an effective, non-invasive, and side-effect-free treatment for snorers. Strips may be particularly effective for people whose snoring is caused by allergies.
6. Ask your partner to start playing the digeridoo
Yes, it sounds bizarre. But research has suggested that playing the Australian Aboriginal wind instrument—which requires a technique called “circular breathing”—may strengthen muscles in the back of the throat so that they are less likely to collapse at night. Since that collapse is common among snorers, the idea is that training those muscles helps decrease the likelihood of snoring.
7. Try a shift in perspective
The sleep deprivation that’s common in the partners of snorers can lead to irritability and resentment, which only makes it harder to stay in the relaxed state of mind required for sleep. Try to reframe your attitude toward the snoring by thinking of it as the sound of someone you love breathing, rather than the sound of an 18-wheeler on rumble strips. Try to embrace the snoring as a sign that you’re lucky enough to have a live-in partner you care about. If that’s proving difficult, there’s some evidence that hypnotherapy may help you feel a little more charitable toward the snorer in your life.
8. Head to a doctor
If none of these techniques are offering the respite you need, or if your partner snores every night and/or experiences pauses in their breathing while asleep, then it’s time to head to a doctor. While your partner may resist going, remind them that the issue is affecting your relationship and making it harder for you to feel rested and keep your brain sharp. If they still need convincing, try recording them in their sleep and then playing it for them the next morning—odds are good they’ll be more likely to admit to an issue if they’re confronted with irrefutable evidence.
A doctor will help determine if there’s a serious underlying cause, like obstructive sleep apnea, that’s contributing to your partner’s snoring. Treatments for sleep apnea include CPAP machines (which consist of a mask worn over the face), surgery, or an oral appliance that’s worn in the mouth.
If all else fails? You may want to join the 25 percent of American couples who choose to sleep in separate bedrooms. Ultimately, it’s up to the two of you to determine the best way to preserve both parties’ physical and mental health as well as the long-term health of your relationship.
Featured photo credit: girl, sleeping/Seniju via flickr.com