How to know if it’s time for a “dormant divorce”

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN

(CNN) – He snores until the walls shake. It gives off an enormous amount of body heat. One of you is a blanket hog, kicks at night, or takes regular 3am breaks. Perhaps you are sleepwalking or have insomnia.

The list of reasons your bed partner might keep you awake at night can be long and as dreary as your mood when you get out of bed each morning.

When it comes to your health, there is nothing to yawn about: being deprived of seven to eight hours of sleep each night has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease. and dementia, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is also an emotional toll, said Wendy Troxel, sleep specialist, behavior specialist at RAND Corporation and author of “Sharing the Blankets: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep”.

“Sleep deprivation can affect key aspects of how a relationship works, such as your mood, your level of frustration, your tolerance, your empathy, and your ability to communicate with your partner and other important people in your life,” he said. declared Troxel.

Poor sleep – and that resulting lousy mood – makes people “less able to engage in a ‘shot’, or put small unwanted events into context,” sleep expert Rebecca Robbins said. , an instructor in the division of sleep medicine for Harvard Medical School, who co-authored the book “Sleep for Success!”

This tension can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other emotional and relationship dysfunctions, Robbins said.

“Unfortunately, this (strain) triggers a negative feedback loop that interferes with the next night’s sleep,” Robbins said. “The process can quickly escalate into worrying mental health symptoms. “

What is the answer? Kicking your sleeping partner on the sidewalk, uh, a separate bed, is definitely an option.

“The question I always ask myself is, ‘Is it bad if my partner and I sleep separately? “The answer is no, not necessarily,” Troxel said. “It can even have significant benefits.”

Research carried out by Troxel and his team found that a well-rested person is “a better communicator, happier, more empathetic, more attractive and funnier” – all traits that are essential to developing and maintaining strong relationships, she said.

Sleeping separately can help couples be happier, less irritated, and more able to enjoy their time together in bed, especially on weekends when the demands of the job are lighter, Troxel said.

“I tell couples to try to think of this not as a request for a sleep divorce, but as the creation of a sleep alliance,” she added. “At the end of the day, there is nothing healthier, happier, and even sexier than a good night’s sleep.”

Eliminate Underlying Sleep Problems

Sleep partners are often the ones who point out the signs of trouble sleeping and encourage their loved one to see a doctor or sleep specialist. Undiagnosed, sleep disorders can adversely affect your future health and that of your partner.

This is why experts say it’s best to see a sleep specialist to rule out and treat any underlying conditions before you get out of your loved one’s bed – you just might be the key to identifying and treating a real problem. health.

Is it sleep apnea? If snoring is the main problem, it is crucial that you know if your partner is suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which people stop breathing for 10 seconds or more at a time.

“When there is loud, hoarse snoring, or it’s interrupted by pauses in breathing, that’s where we start to worry,” Robbins said.

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea puts you at high risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and even premature death. according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Restless legs syndrome. If your partner’s legs twitch, shake, or kick, he or she may have periodic limb movement disorder or restless leg syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. The condition can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication.

Think about drugs. Many common medications can cause insomnia or other types of sleep problems. Cholesterol and asthma medications, high blood pressure pills, steroids, and antidepressants are just a few of the prescriptions that can be the underlying cause of poor sleep.

Is it an untreated medical condition? Diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, and many other common ailments can also interrupt sleep with chronic pain or frequent trips to the toilet.

Adaptation skills

Once any serious health concerns are ruled out, couples who find it emotional to sleep in the same bed may want to try out some practical coping tips before making the decision to sleep separately, Troxel said.

No alcohol please. If you suffer from insomnia, stop drinking alcohol long before bed, experts say. It may seem like it helps you sleep, but alcohol actually causes awakenings in the middle of the night which can be difficult to overcome.

Snorers should also eliminate alcohol, Troxel said, “because as everyone probably knows, if you sleep with a snorer and they drink one too many drinks, the snoring will be a lot worse that night.” This is because alcohol relaxes the throat muscles more, encouraging that loud snoring.

This is where partners can be powerful and beneficial sources of what experts call “social control,” Troxel said.

“If you tend to drink but know that the consequences are not only bad for your sleep, but also for your partner’s sleep, then maybe you will be more motivated to cut back a bit,” he said. she declared.

Lift up your head. For snoring, try sleeping on extra pillows or using an adjustable bed – anything that lifts your head to keep your throat open, Troxel said.

“For a lot of people snoring tends to be worse when flying flat on their back, so it may help to lift your head a bit,” she said.

If the underlying problem is congestion, try adding a humidifier to the room, she added. “Some people have had success with over-the-counter nasal strips for keeping the airways open.”

Drown out the sound. Survival 101 for dealing with a snoring partner tries to muffle the noise, Troxel said. Try earplugs and run a fan or white noise machine.

Try sleep planning. A snorer who sleeps with a partner with insomnia may help that partner get more sleep by going to bed later than their partner, Troxel said.

“For example, a snorer can delay bedtime from half an hour to an hour,” Troxel said. “This allows the partner to fall into a deeper phase of sleep and possibly stay that way after the snorer goes to bed.”

Turn the buzzer on. Sleeping on your back is the worst position for snoring because the soft tissues of the mouth and tongue collapse in the throat. When the sleeper unconsciously forces air through these soft tissues, snoring occurs.

“If you can keep someone by their side, it can ease the snoring,” Robbins said. “I’ve heard of all kinds of creative techniques, like putting a bra on the snorer upside down, then putting tennis balls in the cups.”

Full support body pillows may be an option, if left in place, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, sleep specialist, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

“I’m a fan of the simple things, but if you want to buy something, we’ve come a long way from sewing tennis balls into the backs of our pajamas,” Dasgupta said. “You can buy a strap on the back that has little foam-like protruding things that are supposed to make you sleep on your side.

“And there are FDA-approved devices that attach to your throat or chest and provide vibrations designed to go off when you’re on your back, prompting you to switch to lateral sleep.”

Time for separate bedrooms?

You’ve tried everything, and a good sleep is still a distant dream. At this point, there is no reason not to do what is best for each of you to get the quality sleep you need, especially since there are other ways. maintain a relationship in addition to sharing a bed.

“Couples can still make the bedroom a sacred space, even if they choose not to sleep together,” Troxel said. “You can develop rituals before bed and use that time to actually connect with your partner instead of being independently on a phone or laptop or whatever.”

She encourages couples to spend quality time together before bed, to share the details of the day, and to send each other positive messages.

“We know that self-disclosure is good for relationships, it’s good for sleep,” Troxel said. “If you tell your partner that you are grateful for them, it’s a form of deep connection. Gratitude is good for relationships, it’s good for sleep.”

A “sleep divorce” also doesn’t have to mean separate beds every night, Troxel said. It could be just the work week, with weekends spent in the same bed. It could be every other night – the options are as unique as each couple.

“There really isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ sleep strategy for every couple,” Troxel said. “It’s really about finding the strategy that will work best for both of you.”

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