If there's one thing that my husband and I fight about in bed, it's the "S" word. Snoring.
(It's usually him making all the racket, but lately, he's accused me of keeping him up with mine.) This has been going on for as long as I can remember. But it does seem to be getting worse. I'm not sure if that's because these days, I'm not sleeping as soundly (so I am disturbed more than normal) or that's he's actually snoring louder and more frequently.
The normal aging process leads to the relaxation of the throat muscles, a source of snoring. Even with my arsenal of foam earplugs that are supposed to be effective enough to muffle the sound of a jackhammer and a thick pillow thrown over my head (some nights I fear I'll suffocate in my sleep!), I still hear those awful guttural sounds.
Maybe it's because we've been married for so long that I feel I can admit that sleeping alone is not so bad. I used to feel guilty when he'd take his pillow and go into the extra bedroom, but I don't anymore. Those are blissful nights, I must admit. I feel lousy if I don't get a good night's sleep. Sure, sometimes I get lonely sleeping alone, but when we wake up in the morning, we're both well-rested friends, happy to see one another, rather than grumpy enemies arguing about who kept who up last night.
What's worrisome is not the separate bedrooms - it's the risks that snoring has on health. Sure, I may joke about it, telling my husband that he sounded like an unhappy and rather large zoo animal the night before, but there are serious things to be considered.
Heavy snoring can be a sign of a dangerous condition called obstructive sleep apnea. With this, the person's breathing briefly stops, and this can raise the risk of heart failure and even strokes. For women, the repercussions are frightening. A large study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that regular female snorers have about twice the risk of heart attacks and strokes than women who never snore.
If your bed partner - or you - have some heavy noisy breathing going on (when it's not warranted!) or feel excessively tired in the daytime, get it evaluated. Start by talking to your healthcare provider, who can refer you to a sleep specialist.
The good news is that there are lifestyle changes, like mouthpieces, surgery and/or breathing devices that can successfully treat this condition in many people.
Who knows? You may not only preserve the health of you or your loved one, you may also be able to chuck the earplugs and extra pillow.
How do you deal with a snoring problem - have you found a helpful solution?