Sleep Apnea Affects Both Sufferer and Partner

Sleep Apnea Affects Both Sufferer and Partner

Snoring, daytime tiredness, and mental fogginess are all signs of sleep apnea. Snoring disrupts and bothers partners, but for the sufferer, the condition can cause severe consequences.

On an episode of the old TV show, You Bet Your Life, a woman talking to the host, Groucho Marx, was telling about how enamored she had been with her husband when she’d first met him.  Groucho asks, “Are you just as mad about him today as you were then?” The woman says, “Well, it’s pretty hard to be mad about anybody after eleven years, especially after you hear him snoring.”

Groucho asks if she’d like to cure him of snoring. She says she would, and Groucho says, “Have you tried holding his head underwater for about twelve hours?”

Fortunately, in many cases, there is a much better way to cure snoring than drowning the person.  Often snoring is from the condition sleep apnea. This is where the throat muscles relax during sleep and cause the throat to close periodically.  Studies show that as many as 80% of people with sleep apnea do not know they have it.  This can make for a troublesome sleep life, particularly if you sleep with a partner.

Much more common in men than women, sleep apnea affects both partners in a relationship, only in different ways.  The partner without the condition has to contend with sometimes very loud snoring.  Many seek sleep with a pillow pulled down tightly over their heads.  Others purchase white noise machines, which usually don’t work in cases of severe snoring.  Still, others go find alternate places to sleep.

It’s irritating for the non-affected partner.  But for the sleep apnea sufferer, it can be deadly.  The narrowing or complete closure of breathing passages in a person with this condition decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain.  These breathing events can last a few seconds or as long as a minute. They can also occur hundreds of times per night of sleep.  The result is daytime tiredness and mental fogginess, which can lead to dangerous accidents.

In addition, various studies link sleep apnea to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  These conditions likely will worsen if a person does not treat their sleep apnea.

After being correctly diagnosed with sleep apnea following having their sleep professionally monitored overnight, people are usually instructed by their physicians to begin CPAP therapy.  This consists of sleeping with a mask through which pressurized air is delivered to encourage the person’s airways to remain open during sleep.

The right CPAP machine coupled with a properly fitting mask can transform a person’s life in a very short time.  With more oxygen reaching the brain during sleep, the patient feels the daytime fog lifting and more physical energy returning to his or her body.  Also, with proper breathing during the night, a person faces a lower risk for a number of potentially dangerous medical conditions.

And, the person’s partner is able to fall asleep to the quiet hum of a CPAP machine rather than snoring.  Therefore, it’s probably not too far-fetched to say that CPAP therapy has saved its share of relationships – in more ways than one.

Chris Vasta

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.