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Is Sleep Apnea Killing Your Marriage?

By Ann Robinette

Sleep Apnea or Obstructive Sleep Apnea as it is sometimes called, usually involves loud snoring as one of the symptoms. Anyone that has ever slept with a snoring partner knows that it can be seriously disruptive to one's own sleep. But what effect, long term, does it have on a marriage? It is a common situation in many marriages and apparently has more impact than many couples think.

Obviously the experience of sleeping with a loud snoring partner is not positive, but what can be done? This is the question that The Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center recently set out to ask and hopefully solve. In doing so, they hope to save marriages that might be in danger of divorce due to this cronic, ongoing struggle to get enough rest at night....and all the interpersonal implications of not achieving a balanced level of sleep.

The Center is currently evaluating 10 couples in which the male has been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. The couples begin by completing surveys about sleepiness, marriage satisfaction and quality of life. After this step the couples spend the night in the Center's sleep lab where technicians determine each partner's quantity and quality of sleep.

Two weeks after these tests, and treatment, the couple repeats a night's sleep in the sleep lab for comparison purposes. The results have been very interesting and mostly positive.

According to press releases from the Center, the early results show that there is indeed a significant impact on the wife's quality and quantity of sleep. It is termed a serious problem that does indeed lead to a hostile and tense situation within the marriage.

In one example cited, the husband's snoring was arousing the wife out of sleep over eight times an hour. Her sleep efficiency rating (the percentage of time she was actually asleep) was 73%. The average person's sleep efficiency is closer to 90%.

In this example, the wife had attempted to use ear plugs, earphones and had finally given up and started to sleep alone.

To treat the husband, the Center used a device known as a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP). This machine is non-invasive and the flow of air it delivers prevents the upper airway from collapsing during sleep, allowing the lungs to perform normally.

In this particular case, the wife's quality of life measure jumped from a 1.2 to a 7.0, indicating that the snoring had been alleviated and was no longer significantly bothering her. Her sleepiness scale (how tired she felt) dropped from 12 to a 6. Marital Satisfaction scores improved from a 3 to 5.8 and the wife's sleep efficiency moved up from 73% to 82%.

Obviously on every level, this treatment had made great strides for the couple and showed promise in other situations.

The Rush Center is continuing tests expected to be completed in April 2006. The Center will evaluate the results and expand on the information being provided to the public.

Their press release is very specific about the measures taken as each couple enters the program. As stated "...both the husband and wife undergo simultaneous polysomonography, a sleep test that monitors brain activity, eye movements, muscle activity, heart rate and rhythms, breathing patterns, blood oxygen level and body movements and respiratory sounds. All sensors are noninvasive and do not cause pain or discomfort.

The study involves first diagnosing the sleep apnea. The husband will sleep alone in the center as technicians monitor his sleep. If he has sufficient sleep apnea, he will undergo a split night study to determine the appropriate CPAP treatment.

Sleep apnea is a serious health problem that should be treated. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway. The breathing pause lasts at least 10 seconds and can occur 10 or more times an hour. Apnea lowers the oxygen level in the blood leaving the patient vulnerable to hypertension, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

Obstructive sleep apnea can occur in men and women of any age; however, it is most common in obese, middle-aged men. The most common signs of sleep apnea are loud snoring, choking or gasping during sleep, and fighting sleepiness during the day. In addition to continuous positive airway pressure, treatment includes losing weight, sleeping on your side instead of your back, avoiding alcohol and tobacco."

About The Author

Ann Robinette has sleep apnea and writes articles of interest to

others struggling with the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.


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