It’s an age-old story: you meet someone and you connect instantly. You start to see more of each other until you eventually start dating. Everything is going great and you can’t believe you’re so lucky to have this incredible person in your life.
Then, suddenly, your perfect reality is shattered. You discover at three in the morning that they snore louder than a freight train.
You are likely aware that there are negative health consequences associated with snoring (and pets too!), but what you may not know is that having a partner who snores could be affecting your health as well.
A recent study from The Sleep Research Society in Darien, Illinois, measured sound levels produced by self-reported habitual snorers to determine how many of them surpassed the volume threshold for noise pollution.
The researchers found that 66 percent of participants exceeded a volume of 45 decibels, with 14 percent of them surpassing the noise pollution threshold of 53 decibels .
What is Noise Pollution?
Noise pollution occurs when you are regularly exposed to elevated sound levels that could cause adverse health effects. People who live or work in close proximity to a busy road or highway are likely exposed to noise pollution. Examples of noise pollution could include:
- street traffic sounds from cars, buses, pedestrians, ambulances, etc.
- construction sounds like drilling or other heavy machinery in operation
- airports, with constant elevated sounds from air traffic, i.e. planes taking off or landing
- workplace sounds, often common in open-space offices
- constant loud music in or near commercial venues
- industrial sounds like fans, generators, compressor, mills
- train stations traffic
- household sounds, from the television set to the music playing on the stereo or computer, vacuum cleaners, fans and coolers, washing machines, dishwashers, lawnmowers, etc.
- events involving fireworks, firecrackers, loudspeakers, etc .
How Does Noise Pollution Affect Your Health?
On the milder end of the spectrum, exposure to prolonged or excessive noise is associated with stress, poor concentration, productivity losses in the workplace, and fatigue from loss of sleep. In more severe cases, noise pollution can contribute to cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss .
Noise is a stressor to your body’s autonomic nervous system and endocrine system and triggers the brain’s “fight-or-flight” response. This signals your brain to start pumping adrenaline into your bloodstream and increases your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
This reaction happens so fast that you don’t even notice it, but chronic exposure to noise continuously keeps your body in this stress-reactive state, which eventually wears you down and is detrimental to your physical and mental health .
Thomas Münzel, a cardiologist at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, explains that this is particularly problematic when you’re trying to sleep.
“When you experience noise in the middle of the night, you have an awakening reaction,” Münzel says. “You can close your eyes but you cannot close your ears.” 
Münzel and his colleagues conducted a study in 2013 that simulated the detrimental effects of nighttime noise on 75 healthy adults. Participants who were exposed to the most noise not only reported worse sleep but showed more vascular damage and inflammation, as well as higher levels of stress hormones in lab tests the following morning .
Sleeping With a Partner Who Snores
As mentioned earlier, the researchers from Illinois determined that frequent loud snoring constitutes as noise pollution, and could have a similar effect on health as living next to a busy road. Their paper states:
“Current evidence suggests that accumulated nocturnal exposure to snoring can thus contribute to the development and/or progression of cardiovascular disease in both the snorer and bed partner.” 
What to do if You or Your Partner Snores
So if you’ve found yourself with a bed partner who snores, or if you yourself are the culprit, what can you do? Before you consider ending your relationship, there are some strategies you can use to reduce or prevent snoring.
- Lifestyle changes. The first step is to determine whether or not there are some simple changes you can make to stop snoring. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight could dramatically reduce your instance of snoring.
Avoiding alcohol close to bedtime could also help your situation, as well as treating nasal congestion and avoiding sleeping on your back. Ensuring you’re getting regular sleep can also prevent snoring since sleep deprivation can contribute to the problem .
- Oral appliances. You could also try working with a dental professional to be fitted with a mouthpiece that advances the position of your jaw, tongue, and soft palate to keep your air passage open .
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This involves wearing a mask over your nose or mouth while you sleep, which directs pressurized air from a small pump to your airway to keep it open. This is the most reliable and effective method to control snoring, however, some people find it uncomfortable to wear .
- Upper airway surgery. This is a more drastic approach but may be warranted if you have a very severe problem. There are a number of procedures that can be done with the goal of opening up the airway and preventing significant narrowing during sleep.
The response to these procedures vary from person to person, so it is important to talk to your doctor to ensure you choose the procedure that is best for you .
- Nasal Strips. Strips applied to the bridge of the nose may help increase the area of your nasal passage and a nasal dilator could also help decrease airflow resistance to help you breathe better .
When to See Your Doctor
If yours or your partner’s snoring is disrupting your sleep, you may want to go see your doctor so he or she can help you to determine what is causing you to snore, and develop an action plan for treatment.
You may need to try several treatment methods before you find the one that works for you, but it will be worth it once you and your partner are able to get a restful night’s sleep.
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