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Snoring can break up your marriage

A study says that sleep apnea puts a strain on a marriage, and the couples struggling with it have a higher divorce rate.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 11:40 IST

Preliminary results of a scientific sleep study have shown that sleep apnea does indeed put a strain on a marriage, and that couples struggling with sleep apnea have a higher divorce rate.

Researchers at the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center are now conducting a scientific sleep study to find out whether curing people of snoring can help save a marriage.

Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, founder of the Sleep Disorders Center, said that studies had revealed that couples who struggle with sleep apnea have a higher record of broken marriages.

"Couples who struggle with sleep apnea have a high-divorce rate. This is a frequent problem within marriages that nobody is paying enough attention to. Can we save marriages by treating sleep apnea? It's a question we hope to answer," she said.

The Married Couples Sleep Study will be based on the evaluation of 10 couples in which the male has been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

As a part of the study, couples answer surveys about sleepiness, marriage satisfaction, and quality of life. They then spend the night in the sleep lab where technicians determine each partner s quality and quantity of sleep. Following two weeks of treatment, the diagnostic tests and surveys are repeated.

Dr Cartwright said that preliminary results had shown that sleep apnea does indeed put a strain on a marriage.

"Our early results are showing that the wife's sleep is indeed deprived due to the husband s noisy nights. This is not a mild problem. The lack of sleep for both partners puts a strain on the marriage and creates a hostile and tense situation," said Cartwright.

In one case, the researchers found that after a husband had undergone two weeks of a non-invasive treatment that prevents the upper airway from collapsing during sleep by allowing the lungs to function normally during sleep, his wife's quality of life measure jumped from a 1.2 to a 7.

The treatment is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

Experts warn that sleep apnea is a serious health problem that should be treated. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway.

The breathing pause lasts at least 10 seconds and can occur 10 or more times an hour. Apnea lowers the oxygen level in the blood leaving the patient vulnerable to hypertension, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

Obstructive sleep apnea can occur in men and women of any age; however, it is most common in obese, middle-aged men. The most common signs of sleep apnea are loud snoring, choking or gasping during sleep, and fighting sleepiness during the day.

In addition to continuous positive airway pressure, treatment includes losing weight, sleeping on the side instead of the back, avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 11:40 IST