Are You and Your Partner Sleep Compatible?
Sleep disorders and incompatible nighttime habits can drive couples apart at night. But solutions do exist.
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."
That's where spousal support becomes important. Cartwright says, "Getting
the spouse to hang in there and stay in bed with the partner so he keeps
wearing it is key." In a pilot study that explored the effects of bed sharing
on adherence to CPAP treatment, Cartwright found that men prescribed CPAP
therapy were far more likely to maintain it when their wives stayed in bed with
them. Study results were published in a 2008 issue of The Journal of
Clinical Sleep Medicine.
Most severe cases of sleep apnea require spousal support outside the
bedroom, too. Weight
loss, a huge component to eliminating sleep apnea, comes much easier when
your spouse plays an active role. "You have to cook differently, take a walk
with him," Cartwright suggests.
Even a 20-pound weight loss can mean a big difference. This slight
weight reduction can change full-blown sleep apnea to positional apnea, whereby
the problem exists only when the person sleeps on his or her back. "You have
less respiratory distress on your side," Cartwright says. "Your mouth
automatically opens." To train back sleepers to switch to their sides,
Cartwright gives patients T-shirts with a pocket in the back that holds three
tennis balls. If they attempt to roll over, they're quickly reminded not
"The whole procedure may take a year or two," Cartwright tells WebMD. "If
they can get into better physical shape, patients don't need to wear