Sleeping With A Snorer? How To Still Get Quality Rest

 



Use these tips to deal with the noise and get your partner checked by a doctor

I have an embarrassing confession – I’m a snorer. Around 10 years ago, my husband told me that my snoring was disturbing his sleep. Sleeping with a snorer isn’t exactly ideal, is it? But I put it down to stress as there were other things going on in our lives back then, so I thought that was the reason I wasn’t sleeping well. I don’t remember being told before that I snore, so this was a shock to me. Plus, he said I had been snoring for a while and it was, apparently, really bad. 

Who wants to admit they snore? I certainly didn’t, so I gave excuses and told him it was likely just a phase and to give me some time to get back to a proper sleeping pattern. I also found it hard to fall asleep, often lying in bed for an hour or two before finally dozing off. Consequently, it was hard to wake up in the mornings, and I felt sleepy most of the day and often had to take power naps.
After a few arguments about the issue, I decided to see my GP about my snoring. He sent me to a sleep specialist who then signed me up for a sleep study, where I spent a night in a hospital, with wires taped to various parts of my face. It was, predictably, hard to fall asleep so, come 1am, the medical professional who was going to monitor my sleep told me I had to try my best to sleep as I had to be out of the hospital before 6am (talk about pressure!). 
I eventually fell asleep and I saw the specialist a few days later to get my results. He gave me the bad news – I have sleep apnoea. Actually, not just sleep apnoea but severe sleep apnoea. This meant I had to sleep with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which uses mild air pressure to keep my airways open while I sleep, so I won’t snore. It wasn’t the best news. Let’s face it, it’s not the sexiest thing to wear in bed. But my severe sleep apnoea meant that there would be significant health implications if I didn’t sort it out. 

The first night I used it at home (almost nine years ago) was super uncomfortable. But when I woke up the next morning, I asked my husband: “Is this what it feels like after a good night’s sleep?”. I don’t remember ever feeling so fresh in my life! I have no qualms using it every night now – my doctor even labelled me “a model patient” because many people who need to use a CPAP machine don’t stick with it. I also travel with it all the time now so I can get proper rest while on holiday.

My husband often jokes that nagging me to see a doctor saved my life. He says it in jest but he isn’t wrong. Having untreated sleep apnoea is associated with many adverse medical conditions including high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, increased risks of heart attacks, stroke and dementia, says Dr Leow Leong Chai, Senior Consultant, Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine, and Director, Sleep Centre at Singapore General Hospital. This is why you need to pay attention if you’re sleeping with a snorer.

Credit: 123rf

Risk factors for snoring

Sleep apnoea isn’t the only reason people snore. Dr Leow says that snoring is very common and that “at least half of the population snores”. 

“Common risk factors for snoring include male sex, obesity, advancing age, mouth breathing (e.g. from nasal congestion), alcohol intake or having anatomical causes of airway narrowing, such as enlarged tonsils or having a small or recessed jaw,” he explains.

He adds that even though there are no Singaporean stats on snoring in general, there are local studies that showed 20 to 30 per cent of adult Singaporeans suffer from moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea, with 90 per cent of these patients being undiagnosed and untreated.

When is it sleep apnoea? Look out for these signs

He describes sleep apnoea as a condition caused by repeated airway narrowing or collapse during sleep that is severe enough to result in reduced oxygen levels in the blood or deterioration in sleep quality. This is in contrast to simple snoring, whereby blood oxygen levels and sleep quality are not affected. 

While most patients with sleep apnoea snore, not all snorers have sleep apnoea. Some warning signs that a snorer may be suffering from sleep apnoea include poor quality sleep, co-existing high blood pressure, repeated awakenings with gasping and choking at night, frequent urination at night or feeling excessively sleepy during the day, says Dr Leow. 

“Patients with these red flags should seek prompt medical attention for consideration of a sleep study,” he adds. “Once sleep apnoea is confirmed, the most common and effective treatment is using a CPAP machine. Alternatives to CPAP may include dental appliances and, rarely, surgery.”

If you’re sleeping with a snorer, you might consider recommending some remedies so that both of you will be able to sleep better. Dr Leow shares that simple snoring (without sleep apnoea) may improve with the use of nasal dilator strips, mouth taping, avoiding alcohol, avoiding the supine sleep position (with positional sleep devices/special pillows) and making sure that any underlying cause of chronic nasal congestion (such as allergic rhinitis) is addressed. 

“Watch out for the above red flags and bring your partner to see a doctor if they are present. If not, one can try the above tips to minimise snoring and, if all else fails, ear plugs!” he advises.

Here are more tips (without having to move to a different room) if you’re sleeping with a snorer.

Tips for sleeping with a snorer

Credit: 123rf

Turn on white noise

Listening to white noise will give you another (much more soothing) sound to concentrate on, instead of your partner’s snoring. Buy a white noise machine or simply download a white noise app onto your smartphone. The only stress you’ll have is picking a sound that lulls you to sleep best. Will it be ocean waves, rolling thunderstorm, crickets or cat purring that does the trick? 

Don’t let them eat too close to bedtime

One reason your partner could be snoring is because he eats too close to bedtime. This can cause acid reflux, when the acid in your stomach flows back into your oesophagus. You won’t only feel a burning sensation in your chest, it’ll also cause inflammation in your throat, which narrows your airways. A full stomach also adds extra pressure on the diaphragm and chest when you lie down, restricting your airflow too. What do these lead to? Snoring, of course. Try not to have any food at least three hours before going to bed. 

Tell him not to drink too much alcohol 

Alcohol makes the muscles in your mouth and throat relax. As a result, they might flutter and these vibrations lead to noise as you breathe in and out ie. snoring. Note that this is more likely to happen in people who are already prone to snoring so if he’s already a light snorer, consuming alcohol will make them more thunderous.

Make sure he doesn’t sleep on his back

Sleeping in the supine position (lying on your back) makes some people snore. If this is the case with your partner, tell him to be more aware of his sleep position so that nighttime might be more peaceful for both of you – you won’t be sleeping with a snorer and he won’t get an elbow in his ribs, asking him to move. There are special pillows you could buy too, that ensure snorers’ necks are positioned to avoid or reduce snoring. 

Get earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones 

Perhaps your partner only snores on some nights so it’s not a massive interruption to your sleep pattern. However, if you keep a set of earplugs next to your bed, you can easily reach for them on the nights when he does. You could also try noise-cancelling headphones; put on a podcast or your favourite soothing music so you can have some company while you drift off to sleep.

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