How can I convince my spouse to get sleep apnea treatment?

This question was asked in Allenstown, New Hampshire on 01/29/2013.
My husband knows he needs a sleep study, likely has apnea (he often stops breathing at night) and has such an intense snoring problem that I've actually named each of his snore cycles (the weed whacker and car alarm are the worst). He still won't seek help. His doctor says he needs a sleep study. Please do not suggest ear plugs for me, some of his snores will actually shake the bed. I'm tired of one of us upset and in the guestroom. Mostly I'm just so tired! I need to sleep! What will it take to make him realize by not seeking help he is impacting my health as well? Why do other people hesitate or refuse sleep treatment?

Doctors Answers (4)

Jana P. Kaimal, MD, FCCP
Answered on: 4/5/2013 7

Your husband's stance on seeking treatment is not uncommon. In fact, a lot of our patients end up seeing us because a loved one made their initial appointment. While you can't force him to seek treatment, you can tell him you are worried about him and that his sleep or lack of sleep is affecting you and your marriage to him. Consider presenting him with some of the facts of untreated sleep apnea. Those with undiagnosed sleep apnea are at higher risk for obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and even death. Not to mention, the impacts it has on the rest of the family. Have you tried recording his behavior during his sleep? Maybe this visual evidence will help him see how bad it really is.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 2/5/2013 3

It is common for persons, men especially, to deny that they have a sleep problem as they don't know that they are snoring and don't realize the seriousness of sleep disordered breathing. People use CPAP machines for three reasons (1) to feel better (2) to make their bed partner happy and (3) to avoid strokes and heart attacks. It should be in the reverse order but it usually is not. The fact that your husband knows he needs a sleep study is a small step forward. I call your problem "second hand snore". It is obviously unfair for you to be subjected to this disruption of your sleep. If he is not concerned about his own quality of life and general health he should at least respect yours. I assume you have no children, for if you do, that would even add to his selfishness as he will not likely be around to enjoy your grandchildren. For everyone's sake, encourage him to see someone about this issue soon. What do other people do when their spouse refuses to address this issue? Everything from recording the snoring for playback to leaving the house to sleep elsewhere. You may wish to share this response with him.

Courtney Whitney, DO
Answered on: 1/31/2013

Untreated sleep apnea not only causes issues for the patient but also for a bed partner. A bed partner loses, on average, 1 hour of sleep nightly due to sharing a bed with someone who has untreated sleep apnea. Everyone wants to feel better and sleep better but the main problem is that untreated sleep apnea can lead to a long list of other potentially fatal medical problems. Sleep apnea has been directly linked to issues like heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes and more. Reminding him how much you care about him and that you want to have him around for as long as possible might help him understand why it's important to take care of himself. Tell him getting checked out would be a great Valentine's gift for you!

Jeannine Louise Gingras, MD
Answered on: 1/31/2013

It can cause death!