A recent study*, commissioned by Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG; AEX: PHIA), revealed disrupted sleep can cause tension and impact significant relationships, and also be a sign of sleep apnoea.
Philips latest research revealed over one-third (33%) of Australian respondents have a partner who demonstrates or has demonstrated symptoms of sleep apnoea (snoring and pauses in breathing), yet almost half (49%) did not recommend they get tested for the condition.
The importance of testing for sleep apnoea
Sleep expert, Dr Carmel Harrington, said that this figure is cause for concern and she urges sufferers and their bed partners to take the time to find out whether they actually suffer from the condition, and if so, to seek treatment.
"When someone suffers from sleep apnoea, their sleep is very fragmented leaving them exhausted and completely unrefreshed even after eight hours of sleep. Because of the enormous strain this puts on the body, if left untreated sleep apnoea can put you, or your loved one, at risk of a number of serious conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke.
"While snoring is an annoyance to the bed partner, and can cause them disrupted sleep, it may be the sign of the more serious disorder, sleep apnoea. This is especially so if the snoring is accompanied by pauses in breathing or waking up gasping for air and such symptoms should definitely trigger a visit to the doctor."
Diagnosing and treating sleep apnoea impacts not only the sufferer but those close to them as well. With 58% of Aussie respondents who experience disrupted sleep because of a partner admit to feeling jealousy, resentment and/or anger towards them, it is clear that that poor quality or lack of sleep can impact relationship.
Sleep apnoea can take its toll on your relationship
When either or both partners in a relationship are feeling fatigued, the majority (66%) of those surveyed are more likely to watch TV rather than talk about their day with their partner (13%) or make the effort to enjoy a romantic dinner with their partner (3%).
Psychotherapist and relationship counsellor, Melissa Ferrari, says that while it may be difficult to discuss with your partner, having an honest conversation about sleep quality could improve your physical and mental health as well as your relationship.
"A lack of sleep makes us grumpy, leads to arguments, creating friction in relationships. The partners of people with sleep apnoea are at risk of, and often do, become clinically sleep deprived due to having their sleep constantly disrupted,"
"This disruption to our sleep patterns often ends with a decision made to sleep in separate beds, which can lead to an emotional withdrawal from each other, potentially triggering abandonment issues and a break down of connection."
"My advice is as soon as a lack of sleep is becoming an issue, or you have detected a potential sleeping disorder in either yourself or your partner, as a priority speak with your partner, discuss the impact it is having on you both individually and as a couple and seek treatment before fatigue has a negative impact on your relationship."
Know the signs of sleep apnoea
If you or someone you know snores regularly and has one or more of the following symptoms, it may be Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). OSA often referred to as simply sleep apnoea, is a condition in which a person stops breathing repeatedly during sleep. Sleep apnoea affects 5-10% of adults in Australia, although the number is difficult to quantify as about 80% of Australians affected by sleep apnoea are undiagnosed.
To find out, take the sleep apnoea symptoms quiz here.
Question: Are you surprised by the recent Philips research results?
Melissa Ferrari: A few of the Philips research statistics did really shock me, for example the fact that about 80% of Australians affected by sleep apnoea are undiagnosed and that while over one third (33%) of respondents admit to having a partner that demonstrates or has demonstrated symptoms of sleep apnoea, yet almost half (49%) did not recommend they get tested for the condition. I knew this was an issue which really needs to be addressed and discussed, but seeing those numbers makes you realise how important it is for people to take these issues seriously.
Question: How do sleep disorders impact relationships?
Melissa Ferrari: Interestingly, being a relationship therapist, many people come to me outlining their issues and why they thing they are facing them, and they are often shocked when I ask about their sleeping habits. It is quite incredible to look at the impact sleep has on our relationship, for example if a partner leaves in the night to sleep in a spare room or on the couch can actually raise feelings of abandonment. 58% of Australians surveyed who experience disrupted sleep by a partner admit to feeling jealousy, resentment or anger towards them, and if these feelings continue they can create larger issues in your relationship.
Question: How often are couples not aware the problem is directly related to sleeping issues?
Melissa Ferrari: I don't think many couples even consider sleep to be a factor causing issues in a relationship. Rather, issues such as sleeping in separate bedrooms, are often thought of as the result of their relationship problems. If you can look at the way you and your partner sleep and assess whether one of you could be suffering from a sleep disorder, this can definitely be at the heart of relationship problems, and there are steps you can take to manage this.
Question: How can couples work through feelings of resentment, jealousy and anger related to sleeping issues?
Melissa Ferrari: If you are already feeling tense with some of these emotions, the best thing to do is communicate honestly about how your partner is making you feel, and why your sleeping arrangement is not working. If you or your partner is sleeping in a different room or leaving halfway through the night due to heat or space, it is important to make changes to resolve this. If these problems are due to your partner snoring or breathing irregularly, they can take the Philips Test for sleep apnoea to ensure they are not suffering from something more serious.
Question: What ways can we spend quality time with our partners, tonight?
Melissa Ferrari: It is so important to make sure you are not only sleeping harmoniously, but are setting aside opportunities to spend quality time together. You don't need to plan anything extravagant, fancy or expensive, but being with each other, without your phones or TV as a distraction, and really talking and listening to each other is so important whether it's over a home-cooked dinner or an evening walk with the dog. If you do need to sleep separately, you can still find harmony through connection and communication before bed. It is important that if you are in this situation, you both put effort in to keep the relationship close and working.
Question: What are the most common types of sleep disorders?
Dr Carmel Harrington: There are over 80 types of disorders. Luckily, most are treatable but first they need to be diagnosed. The most common types of sleep disorders include:
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (commonly referred to as sleep apnoea)
Severe or chronic insomnia
Restless Legs Syndrome
Question: What is sleep apnoea? br>
Dr Carmel Harrington: The most common symptoms of sleep apnoea to look out for include snoring, daytime fatigue, restless sleep or waking up through the night, and witnessed apnoeas (interruptions in breathing while sleeping). There are also other symptoms that are not commonly associated with the condition such as heavy sweating during sleep, morning headaches, unrefreshing sleep, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, and nocturia (frequent night time urination).
Question: How do sleep disorders impact all aspects of someone's life?
Dr Carmel Harrington: When someone is suffering from a sleep disorder, they may still be getting 8 or 9 hours sleep however it is not good quality as it is highly fragmented. Due to this, people suffering from a sleep disorder exhibit the signs of chronic sleep deprivation – in the short term they are more susceptible to cold or flu infections and in the long term more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction (like type 2 diabetes), dementia and certain hormonal cancers. Lack of sleep also impacts our productivity and ability to perform because it impairs our capacity to think and learn. Additionally, it is associated with numerous mental health issues including a fivefold increased risk of depression.
Question: What are the dangers of sleep apnoea?
Dr Carmel Harrington: Sleep apnoea is a serious health issue which can have serious health consequences if left undiagnosed. It occurs when the upper airway transiently closes over during sleep preventing air from reaching the lungs. For the airway to re-open, the person needs to wake up even though won't remember this the following morning (as it is only for a brief second or two). This can occur hundreds of times each night which causes significant sleep disruption. Additionally, because the person having an apnoea is deprived of air for up to a minute at a time, their oxygen level goes down causing recurrent hypoxic injury, which can impact the cardiovascular system and increase risk of heart attack and strokes if untreated.
Question: Can you treat sleep apnoea?
Dr Carmel Harrington: Sleep apnoea can be treated and managed which reduces the above health risks. If you are concerned that yourself or your partner may be at risk of sleep apnoea, you can take the Philips Sleep Quiz. A professional will help specialise a treatment to help you overcome your specific symptoms.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Photo by Jeremy Banks on Unsplash