You love your spouse or partner but sleeping next to him/her might be a different story. Instead of being excited to climb into bed each night, you might feel like you’re preparing for battle. Whether it’s a turf war of “staying on your side,” or doing your best to not focus on the loud snoring or breathing coming from less than an arm distance away, you may have trouble sleeping – leaving you longing for uninterrupted rest.
Dave Stockdale, RPSGT, sleep expert at UnityPoint Health, explains how sleeping with someone can affect your zzz, plus offers his top sleeping remedies.
Couples Have Trouble Sleeping
“If your bed partner does anything to disrupt the bedroom environment – uses light, makes noise, has excessive movement, etc. – it will cause your sleep to be fragmented and non-restorative,” Stockdale says. “Your result would be chronic sleep deprivation.”
Sleep disturbances for couples are largely related to one of two things: snoring or tossing and turning.
Unsurprisingly, snoring is the major complaint among bed partners. Snoring is caused by the upper airway partially closing. Other factors can contribute to someone’s probability to snore, including the anatomy of the trachea (upper airway), having a large neck and/or being overweight.
“When snoring is irregular, combined with excessive daytime sleepiness, gasping or choking in sleep, waking short of breath or with headaches or witnessed apnea, the likelihood of a sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) is high,” Stockdale says.
Sleeping on your back is nearly always when SRBD is at its worst. While side sleeping might curb some of the snoring problem, Stockdale says being evaluated by a caregiver is important.
“Unfortunately, some people treat themselves and feel their sleep concerns are cured. Even if they reduce or eliminate snoring, their risk factors of stroke, heart attack, etc., may remain high.”
Stockdale’s top snoring solutions include:
- Positive airway pressure machines (like CPAP, BiPAP, AutoPAP) are, by far, the treatment of choice for SRBD
- Oral devices that advance the jaw (from dentists who specialize in sleep disorders)
- Surgical techniques for opening the upper airway
- Implantable nerve stimulators to open the upper airway or stimulate the diaphragm
- Nasal strips (people with just snoring or mild SRBD)
Tossing and Turning During Sleep
Stockdale says it’s rare when someone doesn’t move during the night. But, if occasional movement becomes more frequent, it’s probably worth having a larger conversation.
“Any excessive movement is cause for concern, especially if it causes discomfort and delayed sleep, like restless leg syndrome, or causes arousals during sleep, such as periodic limb movement in sleep,” Stockdale says.
Trouble Sleeping Remedies for Couples
Sleep deprivation is real, so when you or your partner feel like neither of you is getting enough sleep, something’s got to give. Listen to your bedpartner or someone who observes your sleep – they may recognize an issue you should act upon.
“The biggest signs of sleep trouble are extreme sleepiness or fatigue, memory lapses, mood changes, diminished productivity, insomnia and physical changes, like your bedpartner sleeping somewhere else. If any of these sound like you or your partner, it’s time to talk to the doctor or call a sleep clinic,” Stockdale says.
If these don’t sound like what you’re experiencing, he also offers his top tips for better sleep.
- Sleep as much as needed to feel refreshed, but no more. Each person has optimum requirements and sleeping more will contribute to feeling fatigued. Too much time in bed contributes to shallow, fragmented sleep.
- Avoid extreme room temperature. Overly warm rooms will disturb sleep, and contrary to popular belief, there's no evidence that a cold room will improve sleep.
- Don’t go to bed hungry. Being super hungry can mess with sleep. A light snack may help you go to sleep, especially a dairy product with a carbohydrate (if your diet allows).
- Set an alarm, even on weekends. While not as fun as a good, lazy morning in bed, establishing regular wake-up times strengthen your sleep/wake cycle, leading to more regular times of falling asleep at night.
- Exercise = better sleep. Completed at least two hours before bed, a consistent amount of daily exercise not only improves cardiovascular fitness and helps control weight, but will also contribute to achieving restorative sleep.
- Unplug the devices. Claim the TV or scrolling your favorite social feed helps you fall asleep? Noises and light disturb sleep, even in people who do not awaken or can’t remember the noise in the morning (aka, possibly your bedpartner). A dark, quiet environment produces the most restful sleep.
- Don’t force it. People who feel anxious or frustrated because they can't fall or stay asleep shouldn’t try harder. Instead, they should get out of bed and do something relaxing until drowsiness returns.