Separate bedrooms may be the best idea, says Dr. Glendon E. Sullivan, deputy director of the Atlantic Health Sciences Sleep Centre, based in Saint John, New Brunswick. "I think we all sleep better when sleeping alone," he says. However, he admits, the loss of intimacy and body warmth makes it "not a popular option."
Love your bedmate but hate the way his sleep style disturbs yours? Here are some common problems and proven ways to keep the peace – all through the night.
Problem: Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
Snoring is an obvious problem: how can you fall asleep when your partner's sawing logs next to you?
But serious snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA, a condition in which the snorer actually stops breathing for up to half a minute) are more than mere annoyances, says Dr. Henry Olders, a Montreal-based psychiatrist and assistant professor at McGill University who studies sleep disorders, "I've met a number of women who were terrified that their partner would not start breathing again – the fear of losing their husband is very real," says Dr. Olders.
Solution: The snorer needs to see the doctor.
He may be referred to a dentist or ear-nose-and-throat specialist experienced in sleep medicine.
"Snoring is often position-sensitive," says Dr. Olders. The snorer should sleep on his side; wearing a short with tennis balls Velcroed to the back helps prevent back sleeping. The long-suffering partner should try earplugs, says Dr. Sullivan. "They really do work," he says.
Problem: Periodic leg movement disorder.
Unpredictable leg and arm kicks are the second most common complaint after snoring, says Dr. Sullivan – and they're more common in women than men.
Solution: A larger bed.
If you stay on your side of a king-sized bed, you're less likely to get kicked by (or kick) your sleeping partner.
Page 1 of 2Problem: REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder.
"Normally, when we're in dream sleep (REM sleep), we're paralyzed except for our muscles of respiration," says Dr. Olders. However, this is not the case with someone with REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder. "The upshot is the dreamer may be enacting what they're dreaming about. And if their dream is that they're being attacked and [are] fight[ing] back, this can be very dangerous for the bed partner," says Dr. Olders.
Solution: "Fortunately, there are treatments," says Dr. Olders, so see your doctor. In the interim, separate bedrooms may be the safest bet.
Problem: Insomnia and excessive tossing and turning.
Insomnia includes both poor sleepers who have trouble falling or staying asleep, as well as those who wake too early and can't fall back asleep. Their frustrated tossing and turning keeps their bedmates up, too.
Solution: Establishing regular sleep times is key, says Dr. Sullivan.
"Our bodies really like boring, repetitive things like eating regularly at the same time and sleeping and getting up at the same time. [It] doesn't take all that much to get into a good cycle – or to disrupt the cycle," he says. "So going to bed and getting up at the same time and going to sleep in a sleep environment that is predictably the same is critical."
On the other hand, "many cases of insomnia may be caused by the person attempting to sleep longer than they need," says Dr. Olders. Having trouble meeting your eight-hour quota? Maybe you actually only need six: for some people this is normal.
Problem: Bad sleep habits.
You can't sleep because your mate (check all that apply):
A) Eats chips in bed
B) Watches late-night TV in bed
C) Is tapping away at the laptop in bed
D) Is wrestling with the dog in bed
Solution: "Poor sleep hygiene is a major concern although not a sleep disorder per se," says Dr. Sullivan.
In other words: all you need to do is put your foot down to get relief. Banish the food, TV and laptop from the bedroom. Dogs and cats should bunk elsewhere in the house, too. "Pets can lead to worsening allergies, nasal congestion and lead to worse obstructive sleep apnea and snoring," says Dr. Sullivan.
Problem: Your bedroom is a fridge (or a hothouse).
You're freezing and he's sweating, or vice versa. Who can sleep in these conditions?!
Solution: "The room should be kept cool enough to satisfy the more demanding partner," says Dr. Sullivan.
The heat-seeker can use additional blankets on their side. "Or try a heating blanket with dual controls," he suggests. Dr. Olders suggests bunking in a larger bed or twins, so each partner can customize their sheet and blanket choices. Or try a high-quality wool mattress pad, suggests Dr. Olders. "They can feel warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer."
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