Translating Your Spouse’s Scary Sleep Sounds


He shudders. He gasps. His snores could wake the neighbors. In my 20 years of helping patients with sleep-related breathing disorders, I have heard it all. While the wide variety of sleep sounds that come from spouses can range from soothing to scary, the truth is that they can indicate a real behind-the-scenes problem.


Which ones should you be concerned about? As a dentist with an expertise in dental sleep medicine, I’ve spent years treating those scary sleep noises. Dental sleep medicine is the term we use to describe dentists who focus on managing their patient’s snoring and sleep apnea. It’s a big problem and there are more than 2,800 dentists nationwide who work closely with sleep physicians to offer alternative, effective, and comfortable treatments for these issues.

Sleep Problems by the Numbers

  • Habitual snoring has been found in about 24 percent of adult women and 40 percent of adult men.
  • At least 12-18 million adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea, which causes them to stop breathing hundreds of times a night for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute.

Indicators of Scary Sleep Issues

To find out if either of these eerily-prevalent conditions are a concern for your husband, join me for our #GNO Twitter party on sleep issues on October 30. In the meantime, tick through the list below and don’t forget to ask your husband to evaluate you, too!

Listen for:

  • Loud, frequent snoring—Persistently loud and frequent snoring with intermittent pauses is a caution flag for sleep-related breathing issues. If your husband fits any of the other characteristics below, or if the snoring ruins your sleep, too, get it checked out. There are fast fixes for snoring that can ensure he gets all the oxygen he needs and you don’t have to listen to it whistle its way through his wind pipe every night.
  • Breath holding—By definition, those with sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. And they aren’t very sneaky when they do it. If you have heard him gasp for breath in his sleep, or if you’ve waited (slightly panicked) to hear him breathe at all, make an appointment to see a sleep physician and have a sleep test done.

Watch for:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (the ability to fall asleep anywhere, at any time)
  • Poor memory
  • Irritability
  • Decreased sex drive or impotence
  • Morning headaches
  • Acid reflux symptoms, such as indigestion and heart burn or chest pain

Surprising Solutions

Sleep issues don’t have to mean a CPAP machine with its loud motor, long tubing, and face mask. In many cases, a dentist trained in dental sleep medicine can provide an oral appliance device, similar in shape to a sports mouth-guard, to effectively and comfortably treat the issue. If you have scary sleep sounds lurking in your bedroom, visit a sleep physician, get an official prognosis and then look up a sleep dentist in your area at


B. Gail Demko is president of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and is certified by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. She serves as the expert advisor to the Food & Drug Administration in the field of oral appliance therapy for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Her practice, Sleep Apnea Dentists of New England, is located in Weston, MA.

Image can be credited to © Dmitry Rogatnev |

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