What can couples do to overcome the challenges associated with sleep disorders?
Everyone has nights marked by tossing and turning, unable to quite one’s thoughts and fall asleep. This can be stressful for anyone, and it affects the way we function during the day. However, for some, this occurrence is inescapable due to pathological factors driving sleep deprivation.
According to the Sleep Health Foundation in Australia, up to 23% of couples reported a breakdown in their intimate relationships, and 50% indicated that their daily quality of life had been severely decreased due to constant sleepiness.
While there exist ample research and access to support for those who suffer from a sleep disorder, their partners and loved ones often experience some or most of the side effects as well. Since partners commonly share a bed, one’s loss of sleep inevitable becomes the other’s loss. If you are living with someone who has a sleep disorder, here’s what you can do:
1. Talk about it:
Despite the social stigma surrounding the way in which couples sleep together, and how this could be an indicator of the overall success of their relationship, understand that sleep disturbance is one of the most common difficulties encountered when living with another person. Being open and honest about the problem is likely to yield positive results, and may even bring couples closer together.
2. Seek professional medical advice and support:
There is no need to feel embarrassed about a sleep disorder, which can lead to trying to solve the problem on your own when practical and effective solutions do exist. According to Doctor Philip Alapat of the Baylor College of Medicine Sleep Center, it is best “to refrain from trying something your friend did or coming up with diagnoses from the Internet”. Moreover, Dr Alapat urges people not to become despondent if the problems do not go away instantly. Patience and perseverance are essential.
3. Adopt the same sleep-related habits:
When living with a partner or spouse who has a sleep disorder, it might be necessary to adopt the same sleep-related habits that will benefit them and alleviate some of the symptoms. Much like a diet, it is easier to succeed at lifestyle changes when doing them together.
Here are some of the habits that will be beneficial to both partners:
- Try relaxation techniques, which can often be done together, such as meditation, breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Create a calm environment to enjoy a few hours before bed: dim the lights, turn down or switch off the music, or play relaxing melodies.
- Avoid all televisions, mobile phones, tablets and any other backlit devices at night, and especially in bed.
- Become acquainted with own circadian rhythms and try to initiate sleep and wake cycles consistently every day.
- Let go of all unnecessary thoughts, whether positive or negative, to avoid mental stimulation.
- Avoid or limit the following at night: caffeine and nicotine intake; big meals with starch and sugar; alcohol and other beverages.
- Assist the body with controlling melatonin (sleep hormone) and cortisol (wake hormone) levels by regulating exposure to light—more in the day, less to none at night.
- Having a nap is a great idea but limit it to 20 minutes after lunch.
Perhaps most of all, be patient with a loved one. Even though a couple goes through the experiencing together, it is as distressing, if not more, for the patient as it is for the partner. Support, love, care and understanding will go a long way toward improving sleep quality for both.