Men’s health-related sleep problems impact relationships


angry couple sleep back to back

A study by AbbVie has revealed the impact of men’s health-related sleep disorders on relationships, with 79% of Australian women surveyed believing their partner’s poor sleep is due to a medical issue.

Topping the charts, second only to snoring/sleep apnea, was back pain—which 34% of the 1000 respondents cited as the source of their partners’ sleep disruption.

Depression came in third, which 20% of respondents identified as the cause of sleep disturbance.

The survey also showed that health-related poor sleep doesn’t just impact the individual, with almost half of women (49%) surveyed having their own sleep moderately or seriously affected by their partner’s sleep problems.

The survey has been released as part of the ‘Don’t Turn Your Back On It’ campaign encouraging people with unresolved back pain to seek medical help earlier.

Dismissal of symptoms and disbelief that anything can be done were found to be key barriers to men seeking help for persistent back pain. Based on the survey findings, 58% of those who suffered poor sleep due to back pain believed that their sleep disruption was an inevitable part of ageing, was untreatable, or that their back pain was just the new ‘normal’ and would not respond to treatment.

Poor pain management was another finding of the survey, with the study showing people suffering with back pain during sleep seemed to have suffered for an average of 12 years. In older Australians (70+), respondents had lived with persistent pain for a surprising 20 years.

“These data show that seeking the correct medical help for conditions such as persistent back pain may not only benefit the person affected, but also those they are closest to,” Sydney rheumatologist Dr. Irwin Lim says.

“In particular, men with unresolved back pain may feel they’re suffering in silence; but quite the opposite, the health of their relationships and family life may also suffe.”

Four out of five women reported that their partner’s poor sleep placed a negative strain on their relationship. The top three reasons for relationship issues stemming from a partner with a health-related sleep issue were increased irritability (43%), a less fun-loving partner (38%), and a lower willingness to help with housework (30%).

“Young men typically live in denial with persistent back pain, unaware that the longer diagnosis is delayed the more severe the condition could become,” says Dr Lim.

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