Dentist - Dr. Amy Norman, DDS, PS

Snoring Can Tear a Marriage Apart

 Loud, obnoxious snoring. It’s an issue that comes up in sitcoms and television shows with increasing regularity. The audience laughs on cue as the spouse covers their head with a pillow and tries to fall asleep next to a gasping and snorting partner. But how funny is the true reality of this situation for the spouse of a snorer?

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 90 million Americans snore and up to half of them are snoring due to a sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This condition is characterized by gasping, snorting or snoring during sleep. This occurs because the airway is blocked which causes the patient to stop breathing for several seconds up to thousands of times a night.

 

Dr. Amy Norman, DDS, PS, treats sleep apnea in her Everett, Washington, practice and takes it very seriously.

"Patients that have sleep apnea and their partners both report not feeling like they have enough energy to exercise or even go to work some days," she said. "This exhaustion can diminish someone’s quality of life drastically. Research has proven time and time again how important sleep is to our physical and mental wellbeing."

The Sleep Disorder Center at Rush University Medical Center conducted a scientific study called The Married Couples Sleep Study. They discovered through observation, monitoring and data gathering that the strain on the relationship caused by snoring and in turn a lack of quality sleep resulted in a hostile atmosphere in some of the cases. One spouse was woken from sleep eight times an hour due to the partner’s snoring.

After two weeks of treatment for the snoring spouse, the results were greatly improved. The partner that was kept awake by the snoring saw a 50 percent decrease in sleepiness throughout the day their marital satisfactions scores almost doubled.

Traditional treatment for sleep apnea almost always involves the use of a continuous positive airway pressure machine or CPAP. This machine gently pushes air into the throat to keep the airway open and keep breathing regulated throughout the night. For some patients, these machines make it harder to sleep than it was before treatment. The sleep apnea sufferer may find it uncomfortable to wear the mask which is attached to the machine all night, especially if they like to change positions throughout their sleep cycle. For the spouse, the machine can be noisy and if the partner can’t get comfortable with it, the night is sometimes no more restful than it was before.

In her practice, Norman treats sleep apnea sufferers with oral appliances similar to sports mouth guards. They’re custom made to fit the mouth of the patients and help keep the jaw tilted forward when worn so the airway stays unobstructed.

"You have to find which one works for you," said Norman. "Both CPAP machines and oral appliances help increase the flow of oxygen during sleep. Some patients just can’t tolerate the machines and find more comfortable relief with oral appliances."

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