How snoring can damage a partner's relationship

Loud snoring is often linked to a sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea, which involves periodic pauses in breathing during sleep, experts say.

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Photo: Getty Images
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

"In conversation with family and friends, I used to joke about my husband's loud snoring, but honestly it bothered me," says Arunika Selvam, a 45-year-old married woman from Singapore.

"I was afraid that if I talked about it with my husband, he would be offended."

She thought snoring was part and parcel of marriage.

But the snoring affected her husband and their relationship.

"He started waking up a lot during the night and being grumpy in the morning," she revealed to the BBC.

Because of her husband's snoring, she could not rest at night, and the lack of sleep affected her work performance.

Snoring in a bed-sharer is often overlooked, but health and relationship experts warn that it could seriously affect a partner's health and their relationship.

What is sleep apnea?

Loud snoring is often linked to a sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea, which involves periodic pauses in breathing during sleep, experts say.

This disorder causes interruptions in normal breathing and leads to respiratory desaturation.

Dr Ramamurthy Satyamurthy, a consultant in respiratory disorders at James Cook University Hospital, says sleep apnea symptoms can vary, ranging from mild to moderate or severe, but usually get progressively worse.

He warns that if the condition is not treated, it can affect many aspects of the physical and mental health of both people who snore and their partners, as well as the desire for sexual activity.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

Symptoms usually occur during sleep, and can be:

  • Loud snoring
  • Breathing stops
  • Gasping, snorting, or a choking sound
  • Frequent awakenings

During the day, people who snore may also have symptoms of:

  • Morning headaches
  • Great fatigue
  • Harder concentration
  • Worse memory
  • Feeling depressed, grumpy or other mood swings
  • Weaker coordination
  • Loss of sex drive

Other health problems

In addition, obstructive sleep apnea can cause other health problems.

The sudden drop in blood oxygen levels that occurs during sleep apnea can lead to an increase in blood pressure, experts warn, and that can increase the risk of a number of related health problems.

Some studies indicate that obstructive sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart failure by 140 percent, the risk of stroke by 60 percent, and the risk of coronary heart disease by 30 percent.

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While some may find their partner's snoring funny, it can be a serious matter for their relationship, Dr. Satyamurthy points out.

"Typically, 90 percent of my patients come in because snoring affects their partners a lot," he tells the BBC.

Snoring can force partners to start sleeping in separate rooms, which is known as 'divorce during the night'.

That's not necessarily a bad thing - American relationship therapist Sara Naserzade often recommends that couples sleep separately even when snoring isn't the reason for the separation.

A good night's sleep can contribute to a better relationship between partners, she told the BBC, although this is only possible if a spare bedroom is available, she told the BBC.

But for some couples, an 'overnight divorce' can be the first step on the road to a more permanent separation.

Discuss the snoring problem

Arunika Selvam, although she lives in Singapore, a highly developed country with one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, does not have an extra bed in her apartment.

"We had to rent out the guest room to have extra income because of the high cost of living here in Singapore," explains the mother of one, who has been married for 15 years.

However, after countless sleepless nights, Selvam spoke to her husband about his snoring.

He was reluctant to go to the doctor because both his father and grandfather snored and he believed that it was completely normal.

Loud snoring in men is often considered a reflection of masculinity, especially in certain Asian cultures, Selvam explains.

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Sara Naserzade says that it is important to choose the right moment to raise this issue with your partner in a "subtle and gentle way".

"Maybe after sex, maybe when you're in the mood or especially connected," adds Naserzade, the author of the book Love by Design - 6 Ingredients for a Loving Life.

The expert in social psychology says that it is also important not to forget that people who snore often feel uncomfortable.

Serious consequences

According to the British Association for the Treatment of Snoring and Sleep Apnea, there are around 15 million people who snore in the UK, affecting 30 million people in the country, almost half the population.

Data provided in a recent survey show that the number of men who snore is much higher than the number of women, says the association.

But regardless of who snores, the habit can have profound consequences.

Some reports indicate that snoring is among the most common causes of divorce in the United States and Great Britain, although it is difficult to find concrete data to confirm this.

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Rita Gupta, a UK-based family law solicitor, says her firm has worked on a number of snoring-related divorce cases.

"Snoring is definitely a common cause of marital dissatisfaction," she tells the BBC.

"A lot of people have said to me, 'Well, we've been sleeping in separate rooms for a few years anyway because of his snoring, and we just drifted apart,'" she adds.

The family law attorney says that neglecting medical treatment and not taking the necessary steps to effectively solve this problem is usually cited as the reason, which points to a bigger problem of commitment and care for the partner.

"For example, a woman says about her husband: 'He already snores terribly.

“It really affects my sleep. He didn't take any steps to resolve it.''

Treatment of snoring and sleep apnea

Sleep apnea treatments often involve lifestyle changes, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limited alcohol intake

However, many people need a machine known as CPAP, which provides continuous positive airway pressure.

This device gently blows air into a mask that is placed over the mouth or nose while sleeping.

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Dr. Ramamurti Satyamurti says the health of both snorers and their partners is equally important and they should be encouraged to seek medical advice.

"It will be beneficial not only for their relationship, but also financially, as they will spend less money on medication for other health problems caused by this condition."

"That's why it's beneficial for the whole family," he explains.

Economic, social and cultural barriers

Attitudes about snoring vary around the world, as they are influenced by different economic, social and cultural factors, and even gender and sexuality.

Saman (not his real name), a 40-year-old gay man who works as a hotel receptionist in Colombo, Sri Lanka, hides his sexuality from his family.

They believe that his lover is just a friend who rents a spare room in his house.

"My partner snores loudly, and I can't sleep because of it.

"I only get a good night's sleep when my mother comes to visit," Saman told the BBC.

"Then my partner volunteers to offer my mom a room that she believes is his, and he sleeps on the couch," he says.

"It's the only time I can sleep normally."

“My lover sees himself as a gay man with feminine features, but snoring is considered a masculine characteristic in our culture.

"I'm afraid that talking about this issue might hurt him and make him leave me," he adds.

And while Saman works up the courage to discuss his snoring problem with his lover, Selvam finally convinces her husband to see a doctor who diagnoses him with obstructive sleep apnea.

Selvam says her husband has already taken matters into his own hands and started exercising to lose weight.

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