Sleep, Interrupted

Snoozing spouse sound like Mount Vesuvius? It could signal dangerous—but treatable—sleep apnea.

If you’re married to a “sound” sleeper— as in loud sounds—it may be time to make some noise yourself. Heavy snoring can be a tipoff to a dangerous condition called obstructive sleep apnea, and persuading your partner to be evaluated at a sleep lab could be a smart move.

The name apnea comes from the Greek meaning “without breath.” A sufferer’s breathing stops many times during the night due to temporary closings of the airway. That reduces the blood’s oxygen level; the condition can disrupt sleep and cause daytime drowsiness. Even if you devote eight hours to slumber, you can wake up sluggish and unrefreshed.

An estimated 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, and roughly 80 percent of them don’t know it yet. The condition made the news last September, when it may have been a factor in an NJ Transit accident. A train operator apparently dozed off as his train approached the Hoboken terminal; the ensuing crash claimed one life and injured more than 100. Tests found he had untreated sleep apnea.

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