While the media presents images of loving couples sleeping contentedly in each other's arms all night long, for many the reality is much different. This is especially the case for older couples. You're not alone if you sometimes wish you could have separate beds. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation has found that around 75 percent of adults report snoring or waking up frequently at night.
If you find yourself being kept awake by your partner's snoring, restlessness or bad sleep habits, here are some tips that can help you secure the rest you need and keep sleepless nights from damaging your relationship.
If snoring is the problem
If snoring is the culprit, then get evaluated for sleep apnea and, if necesssary, pursue treatment. Sleep apnea is a common cause for snoring and can permanently damage your health, increasing your risk of premature death. Tell your doctor about problems you have with snoring, difficulties with sleep or daytime fatigue.
Those who suffer from sleep apnea stop breathing several times throughout the night. This significantly increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed with a simple sleep study and can be treated with lifestyle changes and wearing an airway pressure device called a CPAP while sleeping.
Try changing your sleep position. If you sleep on your back, try switching to your side.
Lose weight. Some overweight people snore because of excess fat around the throat, making it more difficult to breathe. Achieving a healthy weight is hard work. But the health benefits, which includes getting better sleep, make this undertaking worth the effort.
Reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the back of the throat, making you more prone to snoring. It's okay to have a glass of wine with dinner, but drink water afterwards. This will mitigate the dehydration effect of alcohol consumption.
Maybe sleeping in separate beds is the answer
Don't worry about the stigma associated with sleeping in separate beds. Approximately 25 percent of American couples sleep separately, according to a 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey. In fact the National Association of Home Builders predicts that by 2015, most custom homes will be built with two master bedrooms to accomodate this rising preference. A happy marriage isn't dependent on sleeping in the same bed.
Make good use of the space in your home. While a custom-built home with dual master bedrooms might not be in everyone's budget, most of us can find an arrangement that ensures a restful sleep for everyone. Futons and daybeds don't take up much room and can easily blend in with the décor in a home office or den.
To compensate for the loss of time with your spouse while sleeping apart, make it a priority to make time for each other during the day. You can maintain intimacy with your spouse by convening in other locations of the home at other times of the day. So sleeping apart doesn't have to result in a loss of intimacy. To the contrary, sleeping in separate beds can help you be better rested. You'll then have more energy to apply to an intimate session with you partner.
Other things to try
Keep things quiet. Earplugs can be used to block out unwanted sounds. If only one partner enjoys listening to music at night, wearing earbuds so that the other can fall asleep is an easy solution.
Keep the lights low. Instead of turning on overhead lights or lamps, use nightlights for trips to the bathroom or to find things at night or early in the morning.
Prevent blanket and sheet hogging. Use separate bedding or split sheets and blankets to ensure that everyone gets their fair share of the covers.
Be mindful of how much caffeine and other stimulants you consume. Don't forget that some medications can also interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Shut off the electronics at night. Ideally, you'll want to keep TV and computers away from your bedroom altogether. But if that's not an option, turn off electronic screens at least one hour before going to sleep.
Nothing replaces good communication and negotiations. Communicate your concerns in an open, respectful way and look for ways to create a win-win solution that works for each person. Avoid levelling accusations and reacting defensively.
Get your annual health checkup. Beyond sleep apnea, there are many other health conditions that can negatively affect sleep. Don't be afraid to ask for a referral to a sleep specialist if you need assistance.
Remember that you're in this together! Work as a team to make sure that both partners get a good night's sleep, and your relationship and health will reap the benefits.
For more by Tracey Marks, M.D., click here.
For more on sleep, click here.
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