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woman holding a pillow over her ears while her partner snores in bed next to her

What to do if your partner snores

When your partner snores, it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep and feel well-rested the next day. If their snoring is a recurrent problem, Paul Zolty, M.D., a Piedmont sleep medicine physician, says it can eventually impact your health and theirs.

Dr. Zolty says sleep disruption from any cause—whether from environmental disturbances like a snoring partner to internal causes like a sleep disorder of your own—can result in sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can lead to:

  • Irritability

  • Sleepiness

  • Reduced ability to focus on tasks

  • Delayed reaction time

  • Other medical problems

What causes snoring?

Dr. Zolty says there are multiple causes of snoring, including:

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Ethnic group

  • Facial structure

  • Large tonsils

  • Sedative or relaxing medications

  • Alcohol

  • Smoking

  • Allergies

  • Mucosal swelling

  • Prior injuries

  • Medical illnesses like hypothyroidism

How to sleep when your partner snores

“You can wear earplugs and nudge your partner to your heart’s content, but that doesn’t do anything to change the overarching problem,” says Dr. Zolty. “Honesty is the best policy. Focusing on both their health and your sleep disruption is a good place to start.”

He says you can suggest that they:

  • Sleep on their side or stomach

  • Elevate the head of the bed

  • Try an over-the-counter snoring device

  • Use Flonase at night if they have allergies

  • Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills and painkillers

  • Lose weight

Sleeping pills and painkillers may also make snoring worse.

“If their snoring is severe, they should get evaluated by a health care provider,” he adds.

Can snoring affect your health?

“The jury is still out whether snoring itself negatively impacts a person's health,” says Dr. Zolty. “One study showed some thickening of the carotid arteries, which may be related to snoring.”

The health risk, he says, is that snoring can be caused by an undiagnosed sleep disorder, which can definitely impact your health.

“Not all snoring is a sign of sleep apnea,” says Dr. Zolty. “And someone can have sleep apnea even if they don’t snore. However, if your partner snores loudly and if they gasp, choke or wake up suddenly by snorting, there’s a high likelihood that they have a sleep apnea issue that should be addressed.”

It’s easy to get evaluated for a sleep disorder, thanks to new technology, he says.

“We now have at-home, one-night sleep tests that are portable and reliable,” says Dr. Zolty. “There’s no excuse for not getting evaluated.”

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