Are You and Your Partner Sleep Compatible?

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Are you and your partner compatible in bed — when it’s time to sleep, we mean? You like to turn in early, snuggled under a pile of blankets in the pitch dark. He’s a night owl, watching TV or reading into the wee hours of the night. When he finally does doze off — oftentimes with the light still glaring — he hardly falls into a restful slumber. Tossing and turning, he balls up the sheets and sometimes kicks them off the bed entirely. Then comes the chain-saw like sleep apnea. tongue forward and opening the throat to allow adequate air passage. That, in turn, reduces snoring and apnea disturbances. “It’s ugly and unromantic,” Cartwright tells WebMD. “So compliance drops down to 50% after one year.”

That’s where spousal support becomes important. Cartwright says, “Getting the spouse to hang in there and stay in bed with the partner so he keeps wearing it is key.” In a pilot study that explored the effects of bed sharing on adherence to CPAP treatment, Cartwright found that men prescribed CPAP therapy were far more likely to maintain it when their wives stayed in bed with them. Study results were published in a 2008 issue of The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Most severe cases of sleep apnea require spousal support outside the bedroom, too. Weight loss, a huge component to eliminating sleep apnea, comes much easier when your spouse plays an active role. “You have to cook differently, take a walk with him,” Cartwright suggests.

Even a 20-pound weight loss can mean a big difference. This slight weight reduction can change full-blown sleep apnea to positional apnea, whereby the problem exists only when the person sleeps on his or her back. “You have less respiratory distress on your side,” Cartwright says. “Your mouth automatically opens.” To train back sleepers to switch to their sides, Cartwright gives patients T-shirts with a pocket in the back that holds three tennis balls. If they attempt to roll over, they’re quickly reminded not to.

“The whole procedure may take a year or two,” Cartwright tells WebMD. “If they can get into better physical shape, patients don’t need to wear anything.”