Sleep disorders can wreck relationships

Last updated at 10:40 02 July 2004

Sleep disorders resulting from the pressures of modern life are wrecking millions of relationships, scientists warned this week.

Many partners resort to sleeping in separate beds to get a decent night's sleep and avoid disturbing each other.

The constant demands of juggling a successful career and hectic social life can leave people feeling exhausted and unable to relax.

Dr Melissa Hack, of the British Sleep Society, which questioned nearly 400,000 subjects, said the problem is ruining careers and relationships.

'People snoring or dropping off has become a joke, but it is an extremely serious problem,' she said.

'Two thirds of those suffering from a lack of sleep said it was causing problems in their relationship. Half admitted they have been forced to sleep in a separate bed.'

And it can be deadly for motorists, with 20 per cent of motorway crashes being caused by sleepiness.

Those who suffer the most common condition, sleep apnoea, are up to 12 times more likely to have an accident, added Dr Hack. The society estimates four million Britons have a sleep disorder. But for many, the condition goes undiagnosed because they fail to consult their GP, believing they will simply be dismissed as lazy.

In sleep apnoea, breathing is constantly interrupted during the night. When the brain detects a resulting lack of oxygen, it briefly rouses the snorer to reopen the air passages.

Common symptoms include snoring, waking up during the night, depression and a general feeling of tiredness.

Sufferers may feel they are under-achieving at work and in their relationships.

Although not fatal, apnoea has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and hypertension.

Dr Hack said: 'People are putting their lives at risk here. This is something that affects as many people as diabetes and twice as many as asthma.'

Family doctors and nurses need to be educated about the issue. 'We need to get people used to the idea that this is a real problem, she added.

Dr John Shneerson, a sleep expert at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, said today's lifestyles were often to blame: 'Society requires a constant readiness to work and socialise and as a result people do not want to admit to having excessive sleepiness or seek help.

'Yet trying to live with excessive sleepiness can place livelihoods and relationships at risk.'

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