help for snoring spouses

For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for well-rested and in exhaustion . . .

While that last phrase isn’t a part of wedding vows, perhaps it should be! More married couples are spending the night in separate rooms, and it has nothing to do with romantic problems. Spouses are sleeping separately to get a decent night’s sleep. Whether they are struggling with snoring, insomnia or restless legs, couples are finding that “till death do us part” just might mean sleeping apart.

Twenty-three percent of married Americans sleep separately, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This tossing and turning is reflected in home design; preference for separate master bedrooms has steadily increased since 1990.  By 2015, an estimated 60 percent of upscale custom homes will have two “owner suites,” according to the National Association of Home Builders.  Couples across the pond don’t fare any better: 1 in 4 people regularly hit the sofa or guest room for quality shut-eye, states the Sleep Council of England.

So what are couples supposed to do? Are they doomed to sleep separately?


A Deadly Snore

While snoring is considered annoying, few realize it can have life-threatening implications.

Snoring is a primary symptom of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when someone stops breathing for several seconds at a time. This can happen hundreds of times a night. As a result, the body is deprived of oxygen. Those with sleep apnea awake feeling groggy and exhausted.  If untreated, sleep apnea can lead to complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It affects 22 million Americans, according to information from the American Sleep Apnea Association.

Getting treatment for sleep apnea can save much more than your marriage: It can save your life.


Seeking Treatment

Your ear, nose and throat physician can schedule a sleep study to evaluate the extent of your sleep apnea. Because ENTs specialize in treating diseases of the throat, nose and airway, they are in a unique position to provide comprehensive care for your sleep apnea.

During the study, you are monitored while you sleep. Monitors attached to your body evaluate vital signs and indicate if you stop breathing during sleep.  Your physician may also ask you to complete a sleepiness scale to determine how your snoring affects your ability to rest. (An example of one of these forms, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, can be found here.) 

After evaluating the results, your doctor may suggest positive aware pressure to alleviate your sleep apnea. These devises—often called CPAP machines—send pressurized air through a mask. This oxygen keeps the sleeper’s airway  open.

Think you (or your spouse) may be a candidate for a sleep study? Take this quiz and discuss the results with your ear, nose, and throat doctor.




American Sleep Apnea Association. “Sleep Apnea.”

Mapes, Diane. "We're Married, Sleeping Separately."

National Sleep Foundation Sleepiness Test