Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Stop the Snoring!

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Another sleepless night? Tips for dealing with snoring, sleep disturbances – and the sensitivities of a snoring spouse

Q. After more than 40 years of sleeping with a man who snores as loud as a freight train I made a decision. As much as I love my husband I can’t take the snoring any more. Maybe I’m a lighter sleeper now, I don’t know. But I do know he wakes me up several times a night (every time he rolls from his side onto his back) and sometimes it takes me quite a while to get back to sleep. So…I’ve decided to sleep in the guest room. The past week has been glorious. I feel so much better in the morning after a good night’s sleep I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. The trouble is, he’s very upset with my decision and seems to be taking it all very personally. I’ve tried to reason with him but to no avail. He’s hurt and moping. Your advice?

Karen, Saskatoon

A. This is a real and legitimate complaint, and an all too common one.  Dr. Charles Samuels, Medical Director of the Calgary-based Centre for Sleep and Human Performance, hears it all the time. He told me that during the menopausal cycle – from start to finish and beyond – women’s number-one complaint is sleep disturbance.

While your husband’s snoring may not have bothered you early on in your marriage, it clearly does now. That’s not a big surprise given you’re likely in your 60s or 70s and in the post-menopausal stage, which in fact does make you a lighter sleeper. And there’s more. As women transition into post-menopause, men also tend to get heavier, which leads to more snoring, as well as an increased risk of sleep apnea, according to Dr. Samuels. (Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts.) This is a health issue for both you and your husband.

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“It is not the woman’s problem where she ‘needs to be fixed’ – which of course is what the guys tend to say,” Dr. Samuels points out. “You need to look at the whole picture.”

Your husband has to quit taking the situation so personally and get to the root of the problem because lack of sleep can be serious. It impacts our memory and our ability to concentrate, while prolonged loss of sleep can lead to weight gain and other health issues. In short, it affects your overall quality of life, your mood and your health. Addressing sleep problems, says Dr. Samuels can have as much impact on your quality of life as exercise and diet.

As far as trying to categorize snoring, there’s a whole spectrum, ranging from noise that disturbs others, to sleep apnea, which can be mild, moderate or severe and have medical consequences. The bottom line is all snoring can disturb sleep and for that reason it’s worth investigating further, says Dr. Samuels. He suggests you and your husband speak to your family doctor who may refer you to a sleep specialist for help.

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Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.