Couples' sleep conflicts solved

Author: Canadian Living


Couples' sleep conflicts solved

You've been running crazy all day -- you can't remember the last time you had a few minutes alone with that guy you call your mate. But now you've got eight delicious hours together. And -- bonus -- there'll be no phone calls, no faxes and no e-mails. Yes, it's bedtime.

Will you spend your night in blissful harmony? Alas, only in your dreams. The love of your life and the father of your children is also a cover-stealing, bed-hogging, snoring snooze-wrecker. These days your most common bedroom fantasies revolve around smothering him with a pillow. His sleep style and yours just don't match -- and you're ready to declare war. Luckily, you can restore peace in the Land of Nod.

The lark
(the eager early riser)

He's up and at 'em with the birds, but you would rather stay in bed until noon. And you could if he didn't wake you up by being so darn chirpy at the crack of dawn. Then, just when you peak after dark, he wants to turn out the lights. He says it's late. You say, sure, in Bombay. Here, it's not even midnight yet!

A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation in the United States found that about 55 per cent of us are larks and about 41 per cent night owls. Birds of a different feather can try to fiddle with each other's bio clocks, but current scientific thinking suggests that sleep patterns are hardwired in our genes (so blame your in-laws).

What to do
Instead of trying to change your lovebird, meet him halfway. Put his clothes in the bathroom at night so he can dress in the morning without disturbing you. And buy a book light so you can read into the wee hours.

The buzz saw (the nonstop snorer)
Your man blows your socks off every night -- his snoring puts a lumberjack's special to shame. Once the buzz saw starts on them logs, there's no rest for the weary. His sputtering engine bursts into life with a roof-rattling snort, then mounts to a sleep-killing series of wheezes, gasps, buzzes, honks and blows. He's clear-cutting virgin forests. No woman alive could rest through this racket.

About four out of 10 men snore, nearly twice as many as women. You don't have to suffer in silence (as if!). Snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that causes interruptions in breathing and that, left untreated, can lead to daytime sleepiness (increasing the risk of traffic or workplace accidents about 15-fold) and up the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

What to do
Book your beloved an appointment with his physician or at a sleep clinic. If it's sleep apnea, he may be fitted with a nasal mask (I prefer the term muzzle) to wear at night. It will apply continuous positive airway pressure to stop the snoring. If, despite your best efforts, the snoring continues, don't give in to temptation and stuff a tennis ball into his mouth. Stuff it into a pocket sewn onto the back of his jammies, instead. When he turns faceup (the favourite position for snorers), he'll feel that lovely lump and roll over. With luck, the snoring will stop and you will saw some wood of your own.

The thrasher (the undercover kick-boxer)
He kicks. He flails. And you wake up with bruises! Obviously, the thrasher has too much physical energy.

What to do
Take him for a long walk or an energetic bike ride in the early evening. Follow it up with a little romantic exercise. Worn out and happy, he'll sleep like a baby. Then again, he may have restless legs syndrome (RLS), a common cause of insomnia. If you think your mate has RLS, send him for a complete physical first to rule out an underlying problem such as diabetes. RLS has no surefire cure, but his doctor can share some advice that might help.

The furnace (the -- literally! -- red-hot lover)
He fires up while you freeze. He likes the window open in February. You shiver, even in the summer, clad in kneesocks, nightie and tuque.

What to do
Invest in a duo of duvets. Make his light and yours igloo-worthy. Then compromise on a room temperature that doesn't deliver frostbite when your nose peeks out.

The cocktail wienie (the rolling blanket bandit)
He's a hottie, all right. Too bad you're left out in the cold when your guy steals the blanket and wraps himself in it like a burrito. Meanwhile, your toes resemble frozen fish sticks. You need to think outside the box spring.

What to do
Head to the store, pronto, and splurge on a new, fluffy duvet. Get it monogrammed with the single word: His. He'll feel loved. And clever you will get the blankie all to yourself.

Bed habits
A recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in the United States found that about 26 per cent of adults lose sleep because of their partners' sleep habits.

Ménage à trois, quatre and more

Something's come between you and your mate. It's small and warm and wears a diaper. Sharing your bed with your little kids is healthy and natural, some experts say; others regard it as downright dangerous. The truth may lie somewhere in between.

Many families enjoy what is called the “family bed” well into their children's tweens. With my own infants, I know, it was bliss not to have to throw off the covers and pad down an icy corridor for a 3 a.m. feeding. Warm and cosy, we were all happy sharing the same bed through those long newborn nights.

As the kids got older, though, I couldn't stand the constant contact. I needed my own space at night. There's just something uniquely irritating about sharing a bed with a toddler who is stretched out sideways, his toes digging into my rib cage. For many parents, it's the romantic bliss, not the sleep they miss. Others say the family bed inspires them to get creative; they rev things up with private assignations in the den or on the floor beside the hot tub.

After hundreds of sleepless nights, we gradually cajoled our kids into their own beds. Thankfully they stay there. Most of the time.

Can separate beds save a marriage?
If your partner has sleep problems, you lose an average of 49 minutes of sleep a night. That's 300 hours a year -- the equivalent of a two-week holiday. No wonder almost a quarter of us head to separate beds.

I used to feel trapped when the noisy, cover-grabbing, pillow-thieving beast I call my true love started his nightly antics. So I set up a haven of my own in the basement. Whenever I can't sleep, I simply troop downstairs.

I've learned this may not be the best response. Some couples happily sleep apart for years, but others find the nightly separation divisive. Dr. Meir Kryger, director of the Sleep Disorder Centre at St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg says: “I've found when couples are forced to sleep apart because of one partner's sleep problems, it often has a terrible effect on the relationship. It's a move of last resort; the partner whose sleep is disturbed feels there is no alternative, but both partners are often devastated by this action.”

It's best to solve the problem that's causing the trouble. Healthy sleep helps keep marriages healthy, too.


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Couples' sleep conflicts solved