Some people have difficulties getting to sleep, others have problems staying asleep. But for some people the problem is what they do, how they behave when they are asleep. Sleep walking, talking, snoring, thrashing about are just some of the problems that partners have to contend with from their sleeping loved ones. And often the sleeping partner is unaware of what they are doing, they may be oblivious to it all.
The first step in trying to reduce or rectify the problem is to determine whether it is a long-established, intermittent, or new problem. There is a need to check for any physical, mental or emotional factors that may exacerbate the situation.
- Physical factors need to be assessed by a doctor. Weight can be a component. Certainly some overweight people find that their sleeping patterns are affected. Snoring is often improved by losing a little weight. Other contributory factors can be a change in hormone levels, pain, some medications, physical conditions like diabetes can cause restlessness and an inability to relax and be still. Encourage your partner to be checked by their doctor if you suspect any of these may be affecting your partner and their ability to sleep well.
Sometimes poor diet, eating late and alcohol can have a bearing on the quality of sleep. Check for any patterns emerging around these areas.
- Mental factors can be more subtle. Some people have poor sleeping patterns that are triggered by situations that they find themselves in. Stress is a significant factor in many people’s lives. Family worries over health, money, behaviour can all play on someones mind and if there is no straight forward solution to the problem and it is an ongoing concern then those thoughts can stay with someone constantly, even when they are trying to sleep.
Many people have business and work related worries, concerns about job security, doing a good job, trying to get everything done and done well can all weigh heavily on someone’s mind. Encourage your partner to share their concerns, try to understand what they are going through and offer support wherever possible.
Try to encourage them to find a better work/life balance. Remind them that people perform better in a work environment when they are rested and feeling calm. Some people struggle to sleep restfully and realise that they are physically tired but mentally alert, or mentally tired and physically awake. Using free time to exercise mentally or physically will enable a person to feel tired in a more balanced way, be less stressed and enable them to sleep better.
- Emotional factors often link in with poor communications. Many people prefer to keep their negative thoughts and irritations to themselves. They prefer to have a quiet life. What often happens though is that by bottling up those thoughts and feelings to maintain a perceived external quiet life it is causing stress, tension, resentment on the inside. This can manifest itself in restless sleep.
So encourage your partner to tell you if they are unhappy about something. Discuss ways that this can be done constructively, rather than through accusations or arguments. Set aside time where you both can sit, relax and talk to each other. In a busy life it can become easy to slip into bad habits, sit in the evenings watching television or working, never really discussing anything other than routine household matters. By improving the quality of your life together you may well discover that the quality of sleep improves too.
If these areas have all been addressed and the problem continues there are two options remaining;
- Reframe the problem into something more positive. Regard the snoring or restlessness as a reassuring reminder of your partner’s presence in bed with you. The fact can be that, rather like living next to a busy road or an aeroplane flight path, once the noise has gone it can be difficult to sleep without it.
- Or, if the problem is too severe, separate beds or even separate bedrooms can be a positive solution. When everyone has a good nights sleep then everyone can enjoy a better quality of life when you are both together.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net