Are You and Your Partner Sleep Compatible?
Sleep disorders and incompatible nighttime habits can drive couples apart at night. But solutions do exist.
Sleep Incompatibility: Insomnia
Even in the absence of sleep disorders, getting a good night's rest remains
elusive for many couples. "We often take sleep for granted," says Kevin
Martinolich, MD, of the East Tennessee Center for Sleep Medicine. Martinolich
says it's not uncommon to see patients who have suffered from insomnia for several years before seeking
If you suffer from insomnia, you may need to look no further than the pillow
next to yours to discover what's keeping you awake. "You have to take a step
back and ask yourself, 'Is it marital problems that begot sleep problems, or
vice versa?'" Martinolich says.
Not sure? The answer may lie in what you and your partner are willing to do
to overcome sleep incompatibility. "It poses the questions: 'How strong is the
relationship? How flexible are the players?'" Emsellem says.
Strategies for a Better Night's Sleep: Sleeping Apart
An increasing number of couples, old and young, resolve sleep
incompatibility by parting ways at night. A recent NSF survey reported that an
estimated 23% of American couples sleep apart. British couples report similar
habits. A survey by Britain's Sleep Council found one out of every four couples
surveyed regularly sleep separately. The trend has become so firmly entrenched
that architects now regularly design new homes with two master bedrooms. The
National Association of Home Builders predicts that by 2015, more than half of
all custom houses will have dual master bedrooms.
But many couples remain committed to cuddling at night. Rosenblatt, who
interviewed 42 bed-sharing couples for his book Two in a Bed: The Social
System of Couple Bed Sharing, reported that, snoring and other annoyances
aside, the desire for intimacy and sheer closeness persuaded many couples to
stay under the same set of sheets.
Strategies for a Better Night's Sleep: Conquering Sleep Apnea
Snoring may seem like a superficial annoyance. But oftentimes it's linked to
the potentially serious disorder called sleep apnea. Sleep
apnea causes the sufferer to stop breathing momentarily, sometimes several
times a night. Over time, sleep apnea can increase one's risk for high
blood pressure, stroke, and heart
Overcoming sleep apnea doesn't happen overnight. "Most doctors just put
patients on a CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure device]," says Rosalind
Cartwright, PhD, founder of the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University
Medical Center. "But follow-up is so important."
Just getting apnea sufferers to wear the CPAP contraption can be a feat in
itself. The unsightly device worn at night includes mask, tubes, and fan.
Though it may resemble an elaborate Halloween mask, it starts the process of
getting a sounder slumber. The fans apply air pressure, pushing the wearer's
tongue forward and opening the throat to allow adequate air passage. That, in
turn, reduces snoring and apnea disturbances. "It's ugly and unromantic,"
Cartwright tells WebMD. "So compliance drops down to 50% after one year."