Is your partner snoring? Are they struggling to stay awake during the day, whether at work or even while driving? We’ve gone into great detail in this blog about the struggles of sleep apnea, and some of the biggest indicators, but we haven’t talked about how a partner can play a crucial role in helping a potential patient get properly diagnosed, and then hopefully start undergoing therapy from a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. One of the key things we know about sleep apnea is that if you snore, it doesn’t mean you’re suffering, but if you do have sleep apnea, you definitely snore. The underlying problem here is that how do you know if you snore? You tend to be asleep while snoring, so you may be unaware. That’s where bed partners, friends, family, and loved ones can come into play, as they tend to be the ones who have to deal with the snoring. Again, I want to point out that just because you snore does not mean you have sleep apnea, but if you do have sleep apnea you’re definitely going to snore.
There are bigger indicators of sleep apnea that we have mentioned in blog posts before, being constantly tired, falling asleep while at work or behind the wheel, or waking up with headaches and sore throats, and if your loved one or bed partner has these signs and is snoring while asleep, it’s probably time that they get tested. CPAP machines are not attractive, and most patients would prefer to avoid them rather than wear them, so getting tested for sleep apnea won’t be easy, but being a bed partner of a potential patient can really help your loved one get tested. Remember, you’re the one who has to deal with the snoring at night, not only are they suffering from a lack of sleep, but they might be keeping you up as well, affecting both of you in your daily activities, whether it’s at work or school.
Never forget that sleep apnea is very serious too, and lack of treatment can lead to things like heart attacks, strokes, and other very serious health effects. We’ve even seen deaths like football hall of famer Reggie White. It’s hard for patients to really see how any of this has anything to do with them if they’re only feeling slightly tired, as the health effects tend to come later in life from lack of proper treatment, but sitting down and telling them about the long term effect on their health and how it has to do with you and your family can be a real eye opener for patients. Being there for a loved one can help as they come to terms with having to wear a CPAP machine at night, something that may be uncomfortable, especially at first, but knowing the benefits both long and short term, like improved performance at work, or being safer on the road, can be a huge help.
While most people would think that sleep apnea patients are predominantly male, we know that this isn’t the truth, as both males and females can be suffering. Listening to your partner at night, and noticing if they are struggling to breathe at certain parts of the night is a good way to see if they might benefit from taking a sleep study.
Getting a sleep study is just the first step, but know that if your partner is diagnosed they’re going to have to wear a machine and mask every night, and helping them through this is going to be crucial to properly treating sleep apnea. Yes the mask might be ugly, and at first probably uncomfortable as they adjust to trying to wear a mask while asleep, but being there for them, with constant reminders that taking off the mask is only going to have huge impacts on their overall health (and hey let’s not forget, stopping their snoring so you can sleep more peacefully as well) will be important.
As sleep apnea is still woefully undiagnosed, its important that patients, doctors, and loved ones are all there for each other while working to find those millions who are struggling but don’t know it. Listen for the warning signs, and help your partner understand how undergoing a sleep study can help both of you.