How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Relationship
by Dr. Scott Bolding
Have you noticed how hard it is to wake up in the morning? Do you feel tired throughout the day, even though you’re getting 8 hours of sleep? Has your partner commented more than once on how much you snore?
Well, you might be suffering from sleep apnea. This sleep disorder happens when your airway is blocked while you sleep. Your body wakes up momentarily to reopen the airway and you fall back to sleep.
You usually don’t notice when it happens, but you will notice the effects sleep apnea has on your life. Sleep apnea disrupts your sleep, causing a variety of symptoms including daytime sleepiness, mood swings, snoring, and more.
Sleep apnea can also have an effect on your relationships. And in most cases, your partner will notice the symptoms of sleep apnea before you do. Sleep apnea can even put a strain on your relationships, especially with your spouse. That’s one of the many reasons why getting sleep apnea diagnosed and treated is so important.
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What is Sleep Apnea?
As we’ve already stated, sleep apnea happens when your breathing is interrupted while you sleep. This interruption happens due to a blocked or narrow airway.
When you sleep the muscles in your throat naturally relax. Most of the time your throat stays open enough for air to pass through. But for some people, the muscles relax too much. It then becomes difficult for you to breathe.
Your body responds by waking up momentarily to reopen the airway. You may wake up with a gasp and the quickly go back to sleep. These episodes happen so fast that you don’t even notice most of the time. They also happen several times a night, which is why they have such an impact on the quality of your sleep.
Most people who have sleep apnea aren’t aware of it. They may notice the symptoms, like how tired they are. But they don’t always make the connection between those symptoms and sleep apnea.
How Sleep Apnea Affects Relationships
Sleep apnea can have a major impact on all areas of your life. Not treating sleep apnea can lead to serious health issues such as heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. You’re also at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Sleep apnea can also put a strain on your relationships. This is due to the effects sleep deprivation has on your mental and emotional health.
Sleep Deprivation and Relationships
In order for your brain to function well you need to get enough sleep every night. Sleep is how our body rebuilds and repairs. Your brain has cells called glial cells. Glial cells function as a filtration system for the brain. They work primarily when you’re sleeping. Because sleep apnea constantly interrupts your sleep the glial cells don’t work the way they need to. This leads to a lot of mental and emotional health problems.
Sleep deprivation can cause problems such as:
- Low energy
- Brain fog
- Daytime sleepiness
Being tired all the time can also lead to mood disorders. You’ll find yourself feeling easily stressed and irritable. You may snap more at your partner and the other people in your life. Low energy makes it harder for you to help out around the house, which can lead to arguments between you and your spouse.
Sleep Apnea Affects You and Your Partner
Of course, if you have sleep apnea you’ll notice these side effects in your own life. But sleep apnea can affect your partner as well.
Snoring is one of the main symptoms of sleep apnea. And the noise from snoring can keep your partner up all night. The sudden gasps when your body wakes up throughout the night can also disturb your partner’s sleep. So, if you notice them becoming more irritable they’re probably suffering from sleep deprivation as well.
Over time the lack of sleep can breed resentment in your partner. They may not know you have sleep apnea either. All they know is how hard it is to sleep.
Sleep Apnea Effects on Intimacy
Sleep apnea can also have an effect on intimacy.
If you’re tired all the time you probably don’t feel like being romantic with your partner. The irritability can make it difficult as well.
But it’s not just low energy and mood swings that make intimacy difficult. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
A healthy sex life is an important part of your relationship. And a lack of intimacy can weaken an already strained relationship.
That’s why it’s so important to get your sleep apnea diagnosed and treated. It doesn’t only affect you. It impacts your partner as well.
What Can You Do?
Now that you know how sleep apnea affects relationships, let’s talk about what you can do about it.
The first thing you can do is be honest about what’s going on. If you think you might have sleep apnea you need to communicate that with your partner. Tell them how you feel. Don’t use it as an excuse, but help them understand why you’re so tired all the time.
Then, you need to get help. Sleep apnea is not the kind of thing you can leave untreated. As we’ve already mentioned, sleep apnea can lead to several major health concerns like heart attacks and strokes. And of course, you’re probably already seeing the impact sleep apnea can have on your relationship.
If you don’t want things to get worse you need to get treatment.
Treatment options for sleep apnea include:
- Lifestyle changes
- CPAP machine
- Oral appliances
The kind of treatment you need will depend on your case. You’ll need to get a diagnosis from a doctor who specializes in treating sleep apnea. They’ll most likely schedule a sleep study so they can get a better idea of what the problem is.
What If Your Partner Has Sleep Apnea?
So, what if your partner is the one with sleep apnea? How can you be supportive and still get the sleep you both need?
Well, the first step is to put yourself in their shoes. You may be frustrated with how tired you are. You may be feeling impatient with their mood swings. But you also have to understand that if they have sleep apnea, it’s not something they can control until they get help. They’re also tired and frustrated. So the most significant thing you can do to help them is try to be empathetic. When you talk to them don’t try to blame them or get angry. Be gentle and let them know you care about them and their health.
You need to encourage them to go see a doctor. They need help with their sleep apnea. And that help can only come from a doctor who specializes in sleep apnea. Go with them to their appointment for support and to help ask questions. Talk with them about their treatment options and be willing to help in any way you can.
Once your partner is able to get treatment for sleep apnea, both of you will be able to sleep better at night.
Drwest, D. (2021, October 27). Will Sleep Apnea Ruin Your Relationships? Summerlin Center for Aesthetic Dentistry. https://www.isleepsolutions.com/blog/will-sleep-apnea-ruin-your-relationships/
How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Spouse If Left Untreated. (n.d.). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/sleep-apnea/how-untreated-sleep-apnea-can-affect-your-spouse
Wesper. (2021, October 24). Living With a Partner Who Has Sleep Apnea. https://wesper.co/article/living-with-a-partner-who-has-sleep-apnea/
Sleep Apnea and Relationships
Get the Sleep You Both Deserve
If left untreated sleep apnea can take a massive toll on all aspects of your life. It causes daytime sleepiness and low energy. And it can lead to other serious medical conditions.
Sleep apnea affects your relationships too. The sleep deprivation caused by waking up multiple times during the night causes mood swings and puts a strain on your relationship. It affects both you and your partner.
You both deserve a good night’s sleep. And the only way to get that sleep is by getting your sleep apnea diagnosed and treated. Once you start on your treatment plan, you’ll both sleep better. And when you both sleep better your relationship will only grow stronger.