How to cope with a partner who snores

Medical Director at Bupa UK
25 April 2017
Man unable to sleep

Snoring is a common problem, especially in middle age. By the time we reach our 60s around half of us will snore regularly. Usually this doesn’t cause many problems – you may have the occasional disturbed night caused by yourself or your partner, but it won’t affect your daily life.

But sometimes snoring is far from a laughing matter. If it’s severe then it can be serious. A recent survey of 2000 adults has shown that a third of people struggling to sleep are often kept awake by their partner, with nearly 73 per cent of these citing snoring as the main cause.

Regular lack of sleep causes extreme tiredness for both of you, which makes it hard to concentrate. It can be dangerous if you’re driving or if you have a job where you work with machinery. It can make you anxious or depressed and, not least, it can also put a huge strain on your relationship.

Our survey also showed that the average adult is getting just six hours and 18 minutes of sleep each night. This is less than the recommended amount of between seven and nine hours sleep for adults. If snoring is keeping you up at night, Dr Steve Iley shares his advice on how to get a better night’s sleep for both you and your partner.

What exactly is snoring?

Snoring is the noise that’s made when the soft parts of your nose, mouth and throat relax while you sleep. They vibrate as you breathe, and that’s what makes the noise. It’s often worse when you’re lying flat or on your back.

How do you know when it’s become a problem?

Snoring can be loud enough to be heard in the next room or even the next house. You may have to sleep in another room to get away from the noise. If that’s happening often, it’s a sign that snoring is becoming a problem.

Around three in every 100 people have a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea. This is where you stop breathing for short periods during sleep, and then gasp or choke, which partly wakes you up. By morning you’re extremely tired and you may fall asleep during the day. If this is happening to you or your partner, get help from your GP as there are treatments that work well.

Tips for stopping snoring

So what can you do to help you both get a good night’s sleep? The first thing to look at is lifestyle.

Snoring is more common if you’re overweight, drink alcohol or smoke. If your partner’s collar size is over 17” for a man or over 16” for a woman, they’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnoea. So losing weight, cutting back on alcohol and stopping smoking can all help.

It can also help to keep your bedroom dust free and regularly vacuum the mattress and carpet. This reduces allergens such as house dust mites, which can make snoring worse.

Your partner can wear a T shirt with a small ball (like a squash ball) in the pocket. They wear it back to front so that when they roll onto their back, they feel the ball and that moves them back onto their side. Raising the head of the bed by putting something under the mattress or using more pillows can work too.

Some people use earplugs to block out the noise. These can work well, but just be aware that if you use them often they can irritate the skin inside of your ear canal.

Sleeping tablets and medicines that act as sedatives can make snoring worse, so give them a miss if you can.

What to do if nothing works

If none of these things work, then try snoring strips or a mandibular advancement device. Snoring strips fix onto the outside of your nose and work by opening your nostrils wider. You can get them from most chemists. Mandibular advancement devices are like gum shields. You wear them in your mouth at night and they move your jaw forwards, which can reduce snoring. You can buy these from a pharmacy or you can have them made by your dentist.

If none of these work, and snoring is having a big effect on your day-to-day lives, then surgery is an option. An operation can remove anything that’s blocking your airways or reshape them. Talk to your GP for more information.

With our GP services, you’ll get sufficient time with a doctor so you can properly discuss your health concerns or illness. We will also try to give you an appointment the next day, subject to availability.

Steve Iley
Medical Director at Bupa UK

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