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How to know when it’s time for a “sleep divorce”

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The list of reasons why your bedmate keeps you awake at night could be as long and as sad as your mood when you crawl out of bed every morning.

There’s also an emotional toll, said sleep specialist Wendy Troxel, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation, author of “Sharing the Covers: Every Couple’s Guide to Better Sleep.”

“Sleep deprivation can affect key aspects of your relationship, such as your mood, frustration, tolerance, empathy, and ability to communicate with your partner and others. important people in your life, “Troxel said.

Bad sleep, and the resulting unpleasant mood, makes people “less able to participate in ‘perspective taking’ or put small adverse events in context,” said sleep specialist Rebecca Robbins, an instructor. from Harvard Medical’s Sleep Medicine Division. School, who co-authored the book “Sleep for Success!”

This stress can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other emotional and relationship dysfunctions, Robbins said.

“Unfortunately, this (tension) triggers a negative feedback loop for which the next night’s sleep suffers,” Robbins said. “The process can quickly become involved in mental health symptoms.”

What is the answer? Kicking your sleeping partner next door, a separate bed, is definitely an option.

“The question I always ask myself is, ‘Is it bad that my partner and I sleep apart?’ The answer is no, not necessarily, “Troxel said. “It may even have some important advantages.”

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Research conducted by Troxel and his team found that a well-rested person is “a better communicator, happier, more empathetic, more attractive and fun,” all traits that are key to developing and maintaining strong relationships, he said.

Sleeping apart can help couples be happier, less resentful and more able to enjoy their time together in bed, especially on weekends when work demands are lighter, Troxel said.

“Couples are being told to try to think of it not as a sleep divorce petition, but as a sleep alliance,” he added. “At the end of the day, there’s nothing healthier, happier and even sexier than a good night’s sleep.”

Discard underlying sleep problems

Sleeping couples are often the ones who show signs of sleep disorders and encourage their loved one to visit a doctor or sleep specialist. Undiagnosed, sleep disorders can harm your and your partner’s future health.

That’s why experts say it’s best to consult with a sleep specialist to rule out and treat any underlying condition before leaving your loved one’s bed; you may be the key to identifying and treating a real health problem.

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Is it sleep apnea? If snoring is the main problem, it’s important to find out if your partner is suffering obstructive sleep apnea, a severe sleep disorder in which people stop breathing for 10 seconds or more at a time.

“When there are loud, shrill snores, or it is interrupted by pauses in breathing, that’s where we start to worry,” Robbins said.

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea puts you at high risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and even premature death. according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Restless legs syndrome. If your partner’s legs are moving, shaking, or suffering, you may have them periodic limb movement disorder or restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. The disease can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications.

Consider medications. Many common drugs can be the cause of insomnia or other types of sleep problems. cholesterol and asthma medications, High blood pressure pills, steroids and antidepressants are just some of the recipes that can be the underlying cause of poor sleep.

Is it an untreated medical condition? Diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer and many other common conditions can also disrupt sleep with chronic pain or go to the bathroom frequently.

Coping skills

Once any serious health issues are ruled out, couples who find an emotional bond to sleep in the same bed may want to try some practical tips for coping before making the decision to sleep apart, Troxel said.

No alcohol, please. If you struggle with insomnia, cut down on alcohol long before bedtime, experts say. It may seem like it helps you sleep, but alcohol actually causes waking up at midnight that can be hard to beat.

Snoring should also eliminate alcohol, Troxel said, “because as everyone probably knows, if you sleep with someone who snores and drinks too many drinks, snoring will be much worse that night.” This is because alcohol further relaxes the throat muscles, encouraging this loud snoring.

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This is where partners can be powerful and beneficial sources of what experts call “social control,” Troxel said.

“If you’re prone to drinking, but you know the consequences will not only be bad for your sleep, but also for your partner’s sleep, you may be more motivated to slow down a bit,” he said.

Raise your head. To snore, try sleeping with extra pillows or use an adjustable bed, anything that raises your head to keep your throat open, Troxel said.

“For a lot of people, snoring is usually worse when they fly backwards, so lifting your head a little bit can be helpful,” he said.

If the underlying problem is congestion, try adding a humidifier to the room, he added. “Some people have been successful with over-the-counter nasal strips to keep the airways open.”

It drowns out the sound. Survival 101 per dealing with a snoring partner is trying to attenuate the noise, Troxel said. Try earplugs and use a fan or white noise machine.

Try programming your sleep. A snoring sleeping with a partner with insomnia can help that couple sleep more if they go to bed later than their partner, Troxel said.

“For example, a snorer can delay going to bed for half an hour to an hour,” Troxel said. “This allows the couple to fall into a deeper stage of sleep and possibly stay that way as the snorers approach.”

Turn the snorer. Sleeping on your back is the worst position for snoring, because the soft tissues of your mouth and tongue sink down your throat. As the sleeper unconsciously forces air to pass through these soft tissues, snores appear.

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“If you can keep someone by your side, that can alleviate snoring,” Robbins said. “I’ve heard of all sorts of creative techniques, like putting a bra on a snore upside down and then putting tennis balls in the cups.”

Full support pillows may be an option, if kept in place, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a sleep specialist who is an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

“I’m a fan of simple things, but if you want to buy something, we’ve come a long way from sewing tennis balls to the back of our pajamas,” Dasgupta said. “You can buy a back strap that has small things that protrude like foam that are supposed to put you to sleep on your side.

“And there are some FDA-approved devices that stick to your throat or chest and provide vibrations designed to go off when you’re on your back, which makes you go to sleep on your side.”

Is it time for separate rooms?

You’ve tried everything and sleeping well is still a distant dream. Right now, there’s no reason not to do what’s best for each of you to get the quality sleep you need, especially because there are other ways to nurture a relationship in addition to sharing a bed.

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“Couples can still make the bedroom a sacred space, even if they decide not to sleep together,” Troxel said. “You can perform bedtime rituals and use that time to really connect with your partner instead of being independently on your phone or laptop or whatever.”

Encourage couples to spend quality time together before going to bed, sharing details of the day and sending positive messages to each other.

“We know that self-revelation is good for relationships, it’s good for sleeping,” Troxel said. “If you tell your partner you’re grateful for her, that’s a form of deep connection. Gratitude is good for relationships, it’s good for sleeping.”

Nor should a “sleep divorce” mean separate beds every night, Troxel said. It could be just the work week, with the weekends spent in bed. It could be every other night, the options are as unique as each couple.

“There really isn’t “Sleep strategy” unique to all “for every couple,” Troxel said. “It’s really about finding the strategy that works best for both of you.”

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