Your Partner's Snoring

It's not just a nuisance. It can lead to hearing loss or insomnia.
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The Problem with Snoring

Do you find yourself retreating to the living room couch because your spouse's loud snoring is keeping you up at night? If your spouse won't see a doctor about his snoring for his own health's sake, maybe he will for yours. New research suggests that partners of chronic snorers can experience noise-induced hearing loss and loss of sleep that greatly affects their daytime productivity.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic's sleep disorders center in Arizona found that when spouses were treated for chronic snoring, both partners' quality of life improved significantly within six weeks of treatment. The Mayo Clinic researchers studied more than 50 couples in which one partner had been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a common cause of chronic snoring. When a person has sleep apnea, a disorder often covered by insurance, airflow stops periodically while they are sleeping because their upper airway collapses. The person then gasps or chokes for air as breathing resumes. The snorer's condition was treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a simple air pump device which pumps a steady pressure of room air to the person's nostrils throughout the night. The pressure acts as a pneumatic splint keeping the airway open. This stops the snoring and airway collapse and allows the person to sleep quietly. The researchers also found that these spouses reported feeling much less sleepy during the day.

A second Canadian research study suggests that bed partners of chronic snorers could be at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. The study looked at only four couples, but it did find that long-term snoring -- the range was 15 to 39 years -- caused significant hearing loss in the ear reported to receive more exposure.

Such results provide extra incentive for spouses who are suffering from "secondhand snoring" to convince their partners to seek medical help. Karl Doghramji, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, notes that spouses have always played a key role in getting patients to see him.

"I would say that a minimum of 40 percent of sleep apnea patients I see are brought in by the urging of a spouse, usually a wife," Dr. Doghramji says. "Often, she is concerned about what the snoring is doing to her -- its loudness can aggravate her own sleep problems, such as insomnia, and it may lead to sleeping in a separate bed, which interferes with intimacy."

 

"On the other hand, I also have seen couples in which the spouse claims not to be affected by her partner's snoring," Dr. Doghramji says. "More likely than not, there is a subtle disruption of sleep that she is not even aware of."

Continued on page 2:  What You Can Do

 

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