Can Snoring Ruin a Marriage?

February 2, 2006 |

The husband snores. The wife nudges him to flip over. Both wake up feeling grouchy the next morning. It’s a common occurrence that may have more of an impact on the marriage than most couples think.

The Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center is conducting a scientific sleep study to evaluate how a husband’s sleep apnea impacts the wife’s quality of sleep and the couple’s marital satisfaction.

“This is a frequent problem within marriages that nobody is paying enough attention to,” said Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, founder of the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush. “Couples who struggle with sleep apnea have a high-divorce rate. Can we save marriages by treating sleep apnea? It’s a question we hope to answer.”

The Married Couples Sleep Study is evaluating 10 couples in which the male has been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. After completing surveys about sleepiness, marriage satisfaction, and quality of life, the couple spends 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.

“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.

For example, in one couple, the husband’s snoring was arousing the wife out of sleep over eight times an hour. Her sleep efficiency rating, which is the percentage of time she is actually sleeping during the night, was 73 percent. The average person’s sleep efficiency is closer to 90 percent. The wife had tried ear plugs, earphones, and numerous other devices to try to sleep through the snoring. She eventually gave up and chose to sleep alone.

“The strain on the marriage was evident. The couple was fighting all the time and the surveys revealed low satisfaction with the marriage, especially when it came to effective communication,” said Cartwright.

The husband underwent two weeks of treatment at home using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). The noninvasive treatment prevents the upper airway from collapsing during sleep, allowing the lungs to function normally during sleep.

Following treatment, the wife’s quality of life measure jumped from a 1.2 to a 7, meaning the sleep apnea was no longer bothering her at all. Her sleepiness scale, which measures how tired she feels during the day, dropped from 12 to 6. Marital satisfaction scores improved from 3 to 5.8 and the wife’s sleep efficiency jumped from 73 percent to 82 percent.

“Our early results have been terrific,” said Cartwright. “It is beautiful to see couples getting along so much better.

The Married Couples Sleep Study is currently ongoing. The study of the first ten couples should be completed by April. Cartwright anticipates presenting data this summer. If the results are promising, the study will be expanded to include more couples.

The study is conducted in the Rush Sleep Disorders Center ’s new “couples sleep room.” The room was made possible by a 50,000 donation from a former patient. The room is furnished with a queen size bed, television and other amenities to make the couple comfortable. Both the husband and wife undergo simultaneous polysomonography, a sleep test that monitors brain activity, eye movements, muscle activity, heart rate and rhythms, breathing patterns, blood oxygen level and body movements and respiratory sounds. All sensors are noninvasive and do not cause pain or discomfort.

The study involves first diagnosing the sleep apnea. The husband will sleep alone in the center as technicians monitor his sleep. If he has sufficient sleep apnea, he will undergo a split night study to determine the appropriate CPAP treatment.

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 your side instead of your back, avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

For more information on the Married Couples Sleep Study contact Benjamin Fleischer at 312-563-4292.

Founded in 1978 by Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush was the first such center in Illinois and the first in the region to receive accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Since that time, the doctors at the center have treated more than 16,000 patients. Clinical and laboratory facilities include eight hotel-like bedrooms with private bathrooms, state-of-the-art computerized monitoring room, and four patient evaluation and examination spaces.

Find out more information about your particular sleep problems with our unique interactive conversation about sleep. This Web-based tool uses a friendly, conversational tone to help you explore your personal sleep issues in depth by asking pertinent questions that lead you to targeted information. You can access this interactive tool at

7 Responses to Can Snoring Ruin a Marriage?

  1. reciprocity February 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    SnoreSeals help reduce the noise level. I use them with my CPAP and it makes it so much more tolerable. I can also use one or the other on its own. I like the seals because they travel so much easier – in your pocket instead of in a suitcase. lol.

  2. Anonymous May 24, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    Unfortunatelythere are some causes of snoring you simply cannot control. There are heredity issues that come into play such as having a narrow throata cleft palateenlarged adenoids and many other physical attributes. The only thing you could possibly do is have surgery on certain parts of the throat but this is not recommended.

  3. Anonymous June 18, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    I’ve always had a passion to find a cure for snoring after my father went practically his whole life with the problem. It practically ruined his and my moms marriage, because they had to sleep in seprate rooms most the time. He would go to work tired and unrested, not being able to focus. Not realizing that he was feeling this way because of his problem. Snoring can cause unrested sleep, weight gain, risk of stroke and heart attacks to just name a few. So he started trying some products on the market to try and cure his problem. Breathe Rights, sprays, mouth guards and other medicines. None would work. So about a month ago I came across a product that I found online called Snore Seal, a snore strip invented by a medical company dedicated to sleep called Bradley Scott Medical. Its a disposable device ment to use one per night, kind of like a Breathe Right, but this device goes in between your lips . So for open mouth snorers this product is amazing. Most snorers that when in a relaxed state, the jaw drops and the snoring starts. When your mouth is in the closed position the product assists the mandible muscles in keeping the mouth in the closed position to help promote nasal breathing while never forcibly closing the mouth. Jaw muscles remained relaxed all night. You can get 100% airflow through the mouth when awake and when asleep because of the slit in the Snore Seal. But when you go to take a deep breath as you would when you start snoring the patended hinge on the device collapses forcing you to breathe through your nose. Snore Seals are the most effective product we have tried thus far. They are comfortable, cheap (about $1 a day) and after wearing them a couple weeks have almost cured my fathers 30 years of snoring. Wondering if anyone has seen them in stores, the only place I can get them as of now is online. I suggest if you or a loved one has a snoring problem to try Snore Seals. Mark my words, this product will be all over the place in the next couple of years and will be talked about on every snore topic out there. Thanks for reading Snoreman

  4. Anonymous May 22, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

    Snoring can definitely ruin the marriage. Especially if the one who snores actually deny that he or she is snoring. My partner took a video on her mobile phone one night to prove it to me that I do snore!

  5. Anonymous March 26, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    There’s an old saying “Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.” It’s pretty obvious that snorers end up in separate beds, often in separate rooms but what’s not so obvious is that snoring which leads to sleep apnea can seriously alter both your sexuality and your ability to perform.

    Our absolutely free, no sign in required, e-book The Secret [Sex] Life of Snorers walks you through the psychological, emotional and physical side effects of snoring and sleep apnea and provides a quick look at the possible solutions including one that your physician will probably not tell you about.

    One caveat, if you enjoy sleeping alone – please do not DOWNLOAD and read this e-book. Available at

    Dr. Barsh

  6. Anonymous March 24, 2009 at 6:35 am #

    Does anyone know of something that can be used to help reduce the noise level. I have tried all kinds of ear plugs and they do not help.

  7. Snoring Bob May 2, 2007 at 12:30 am #

    Hypnotism can tap into the subconscious mind to address specific issues such as smoking, weight loss and even snoring.

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