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Dr. Robert Oexman

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Couple Sleep Is Best -- Here's How to Make it Even Better!

Posted: 06/18/2012 4:18 pm

An article in the Wall Street Journal this week addresses the positive and negative aspects of partners sleeping in the same bed. According to the article, couples may get health benefits simply from sleeping together due to feelings of safety and security. This shows that the psychological impact of couple sleep should outweigh some of the negative consequences of how partners disturb each other at night. However, there are solutions to the "negatives" of couple sleep that too often lead to separate bedrooms. It's time to address those issues!

Sleeping Partners No. 1 Complaint is Snoring:

Snoring is the No. 1 factor that leads to partner disturbance as ribs are poked and shoulders are punched to force the offending partner roll over. The excessive force from aggravated men and women can be so severe that it can lead to bruises and broken ribs. Avoid injuries! Here are five tips to solve mild to moderate snoring:

1. Avoid alcohol: Alcohol not only increases snoring but can disrupt quality of sleep.

2. Sleep on your side: People snore less when laying on their side rather than on their back. If your partner nudges you and you move to your side position and stop snoring, ask yourself: Why don't I stay in that position? If you're not comfortable on your side, it's a sign that you may need a new mattress.

3. Mouth guards: There are several products on the market that you wear in your mouth at night to pull the lower jaw slightly forward. This opens the airway and reduces snoring. For anyone that's completed CPR training, you know this is one of the best ways to increase airflow to the lungs.

4. Open Airways: Your breathing must be free and clear to stop snoring. If your airway is obstructed in your nose or in the back of your throat, that's a problem. A simple fix is using nasal strips each night. Severe sufferers may find a solution with surgery. Also consider talking to a doctor about having enlarged tonsils removed. Surgery to decrease the amount of tissue in the back of the throat or tighten the tissue can also be done.

5. Positioning aids: If you are certain you have the right mattress and already use a mouth guard, sometimes you need a little re-training to sleep on your side. Try products that use balls or rolls attached to the back of a nightshirt to "gently" remind you to stay off your back. Usually a couple of weeks sleeping with the shirt is all it takes to re-train you to sleep on your side.

Resorting to separate bedrooms is a tragic solution to a possible life-threatening sleep disorder. Sending your partner to another room is ignoring what can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks and early death. Snoring can and should be treated.

Let's Avoid Separate Bedrooms!

Here are a few other ideas for successfully sleeping together.

  • Separate Sheets and Blankets: Another common cause of partner disturbance is stolen covers. Avoid a fight over the blankets by using your own! You can have one fitted sheet, but for each side of the bed use your own twin size top sheet and blanket. In the morning you can use a duvet or cover that is the same size as your mattress so the bed looks "made up" during the day. This also helps address the different temperature needs of couples who want more or less covers. When I treat couples that are having sleeping issues this is the one tip where I get the most initial push back. However, in the end this is the tip they say has most helped their sleep.
  • Size Matters... in a Mattress: When it comes to size, it really does matter in a mattress. Using actigraphy (measuring movement), the Sleep to Live Institute was able to show that the bigger the mattress the less partners disturbed each other. So, a queen size bed is better than a full and a king size is better than a queen.
  • Opt for a "His and Hers" Bed: You can find a mattress that is fitted to your body. Research completed by Research Triangle International for the Sleep to Live Institute showed that different mattress support levels impacts people's sleep and pain levels. If your body type is different than your partners, you may need a different mattress. Find a two-in-one solution. For example, MySide mattresses use a diagnostic system to measure your body and recommend a mattress that has different support levels on each side. He can have a firm side of the bed, while she has a plush side.

With a bit of effort, you can have a lifetime of better sleep with your partner!

Disclosure: Dr. Robert Oexman is Director of the Sleep to Live Institute, and their research was used in the development of MySide mattresses.

For more by Dr. Robert Oexman, click here.

For more on sleep, click here.

 
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