12 things worth a try if your husband is always falling asleep
By Jason Wooden, PhD | Updated for 2023
When a husband is always falling asleep, it can lead to frustration, resentment, and loneliness. The reasons it happens include poor sleep, sleep apnea, health issues, medications, and mental health challenges.
For more energy during waking hours, your spouse’s options include sleep hygiene, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, smart naps, stress management, getting a checkup, and sleep counseling.
In this article, we’ll talk about:
1) Why there’s more at risk than you realize
2) The surprising reasons it happens
3) 12 practical remedies worth a try
4) What to do if he’s not taking it seriously
If your husband is always falling asleep, there’s more at risk than you realize
It’s an all too common complaint.
You’re at the movies, a play, or a music concert, you look over and see he’s nodded off…
You’re at a social gathering with friends or family and he’s nodded off..
Every time you plop down on the couch to watch your favorite TV show, your husband falls asleep on you.
Or maybe it’s bedtime and you’re looking to spend some more intimate time together, even if it’s just a quiet chat – most times, he’s asleep and snoring way too soon.
Whether it’s during the day or evening, it can be a real bummer if you have a spouse who’s always falling asleep. Over time, frustration, loneliness, and resentment can build.
Fortunately, this has never been an issue for me as it’s rare that I fall asleep on my wife. (My challenge is falling asleep on time which is a whole different topic.)
I have witnessed this first hand with relatives, including one who is famous for nodding off at family gatherings.
Unfortunately, this is an issue that can be a silent relationship killer especially as emotional and physical intimacy suffer.
However, there’s way more at stake than you realize because of the life changing consequences of poor sleep.
Chronically sleep-deprived people struggle with thinking clearly, forgetfulness, moodiness, and low energy. They also suffer from poor communication, stress, low sex drive, and other barriers to intimacy.
Everyday household tasks and social occasions can be a challenge.
They’re also more at risk for all sorts of issues – diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity related illnesses, a weakened immune system, anxiety, and depression.
None of this is good for relationships or for your husband’s health.
So, there’s more at stake than your time together.
The good news is there’s hope.
Let’s take a look at what could be happening and what you can do so your husband is more awake when you spend time together.
The surprising reasons your husband is always falling asleep
It’s likely what you’re up against is excessive daytime sleepiness. It’s defined as difficulty staying awake, alert, or experiencing an increased desire to sleep during the day.
Would you believe that excessive daytime sleepiness is estimated to affect around 20% of the population?
The symptoms include:
- difficulty staying alert
- difficulty focusing
- memory problems
- difficulty retaining new concepts
- difficulty making decisions
- slower reaction times
As frustrating as it feels when this happens, there could be any one of a number of reasons your spouse keeps falling asleep. Some are obvious, some are not so obvious and could be pretty serious:
1) He’s not getting enough quality sleep
There’s a good reason this is at the top of the list. On any given night, 1 in 3 adults struggle with poor sleep.
And when you’re routinely behind the eight ball on sleep, it’s bound to show up during waking hours.
There are lots of reasons – poor sleep habits, eating the wrong food at night, staying up too late, and getting up way too early are just a few.
Everyday stress and anxiety are also common sleep killers.
You may be thinking “wait, my husband gets at least 8 hours every night”.
The thing to keep in mind about sleep is that how WELL you sleep is just as important as how LONG you sleep.
And there are plenty of underlying issues that affect sleep quality.
2) Health issues
One of the reasons he could be struggling to stay awake is because of underlying health issues.
First, there’s the things that can make you feel more tired during your waking hours:
- anemia (iron deficiency)
- under-active thyroid
- coeliac disease
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- too much calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia)
And then there’s the things that can make it hard to get good quality sleep:
- pain and body aches
- allergies asthma
- heart burn
- heart disease
- opiod and nicotine
Like health issues, some meds can make you feel more tired when awake and others make it harder to sleep at night.
Among the meds that can make you feel drowsy are anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, anxiety meds, cold and allergy meds, muscle relaxants, heart meds, and prescription pain meds.
The list of meds that affect sleep include some allergy meds, blood pressure meds, antidepressants, cholesterol meds, and corticosteroids used to treat inflammation.
4) Underlying sleep disorders
If poor sleep and day time tiredness has become a fact of life for your husband, he may be suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
At the top of the list is obstructive sleep apnea which is one of the most common sleep disorders. It’s estimated to affect up to 1 billion people worldwide!
It arouses you repeatedly throughout the night out of deep restful sleep into a lighter sleep. In the morning, you wake up feeling as if you haven’t slept at all.
Excessive daytime sleepiness is a hallmark symptom for obstructive sleep apnea.
Other sleep disorders linked to excessive daytime sleepiness include narcolepsy and circadian rhythm disorders.
Do you know your sleep apnea symptoms?
- Pauses in breathing
- Choking, gasping, or snorting
- Loud snoring (not all who snore have sleep apnea)
- Dry mouth or sore throat
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Waking up frequently to urinate
- Morning headaches
- Fatigue during the day
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Irritability or mood swings
- Attention, memory, or learning problems
Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine
5) Mental health challenges
Has your husband been feeling a bit down lately? Depression is a known cause for drowsiness.
In fact, nearly 80% of people with major depression experience daytime sleepiness.
Stress and anxiety can also leave you feeling drained.
What’s worse is that there’s a strong link between poor sleep, stress, anxiety, and depression.
If you’re not careful, you may get into a downward spiral.
12 Practical remedies to try for a husband who keeps falling asleep
We’ve looked at the reasons why your husband is falling asleep on you.
You need to know there’s hope.
There are plenty of practical remedies worth a try. Obviously, what he does will depend on his situation and specific challenges.
Let’s take a look at his options:
1) Improve your sleep hygiene
Getting the best possible sleep you can every night will help you have more energy during the day.
Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that can cause problems for sleep. This makes it important to practice good sleep hygiene, the everyday habits that set the stage for deep restful sleep.
For better sleep hygiene, you should:
- keep consistent wake up & sleep times
- avoid naps
- exercise during the day
- avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime
- maintain a regular bedtime routine
- avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics before sleep
- keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing
2) Stick to a routine
Routine is a critical part of sleep hygiene.
As tempting as it is to stay up late watching your favorite program or sleep in to late morning, it’s really important to stay on a schedule. Get out and do things during the day, sleep when your body says it’s time to sleep.
It’s also important to have a regular evening routine that helps you relax and transition more easily to sleep.
3) Stay active
We’re not meant to be sedentary creatures which is why it’s important to get out and move your body.
Exercise is energizing and great for mood during the day. It’ll also promote deep sleep at night.
Make sure you’re doing something physical every day whether it’s a walk, swimming, or a bike ride. If you’re dealing with other health issues, be sure to check with a doctor so you don’t overexert yourself.
Day time fatigue is a common symptom of dehydration. It’s generally recommended to drink around eight 8-ounce glasses each day.
5) Eat healthier
Heavy meals can slow down your metabolism and make you feel sluggish. Try eating lighter meals at lunch and dinner.
6) Nap strategically
A quick snoozer can do wonders. Sleep experts recommend you keep your naps under 15-20 minutes so you don’t wake up in a brain fog.
Try to structuring your time together and activities around scheduled naps.
7) Avoid getting over stressed
As I mentioned earlier, worrying too much about things can make it hard to fall asleep. Stress and anxiety are major causes of insomnia.
They’re also pretty draining.
8) Lifestyle changes
Speaking of stress, maybe it’s time to scale back on some things.
Being over committed and having unrealistic expectations will wear you out. Trying to do too much for friends and family can leave you drained and exhausted.
9) Work changes
Is your husband’s current job running him ragged? Is he so exhausted by the end of the workday and week that all he can do is collapse on the lazy boy?
Depending on his work situation, maybe there are adjustments that can be made to his hours and responsibilities.
It may even be time to switch to a new job or new type of work for peace of mind.
10) Get a check up
When is the last time your husband had a checkup?
It should be clear by now how things going with the body can cause people to sleep more poorly during the night and feel more tired during the day.
Whether it’s an unresolved health issues, medications, or an undiagnosed sleep disorder, a doctor can help figure out why your husband is always falling asleep.
If you don’t deal with these underlying sleep issues, you may be just sticking a band aid on things.
11) Sleep apnea treatment
This one is pretty obvious given the strong link between excessive daytime sleepiness and obstructive sleep apnea. The good news is that sleep apnea is pretty treatable these days.
Has your spouse been already diagnosed with sleep apnea and given up on his treatment? He’s not the only as many patients stop using their CPAP machines within the first year of treatment.
Some find the CPAP mask uncomfortable while others complain about the blowing air, system leaks, dry nose, red eye, and nasal congestion.
Fortunately, they’re now more alternatives than ever he can try – more comfortable face masks, body positioners, innovative nerve stimulators, and surgically implanted suspension lines.
Sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment
The latest sleep apnea treatments
12) Sleep counseling
The most commonly used type of counseling for sleep challenges is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT for short). It focuses on changing thinking and behavioral patterns.
It can help your husband develop healthier ways of thinking and habits to keep your sleep on track.
It’s been widely used for many other things, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse problems, and marital challenges.
Learn more: Sleep counseling
Help, my husband keeps falling asleep and doesn’t seem to think it’s an issue!
So, what can you do if you have a husband who’s always falling asleep yet doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously?
Whether he recognizes it or not, it’s likely affecting your relationship, his health, and your well-being.
A couple things to keep in mind:
- Honestly and respectfully share how it’s affecting you
- If you can, choose a time when you or your spouse aren’t as tired
- Avoid being confrontational
- Figure out how you can support one another
- Be willing to compromise and try out different things
- To keep from getting overwhelmed, be realistic about your situation – some things will be in your control and some won’t
- Take it one day at a time
If he doesn’t seem to want to do anything or even talk about, couples counseling may help.
You may also be interested in:
Sleeping with someone with sleep apnea – 6 things to do for more restful nights
Worried sleep apnea is ruining your marriage? – 3 practical tips for survival and recovery
A Full Guide To Couples Therapy (Mindbodygreen.com)
1. “Talking Points”, World Sleep Society website
2. “10 medical reasons for feeling tired”, NHS website
3. “What to do when medication makes you sleepy”, 2019, Harvard Health Publishing
4. “10 Types of Meds That Can Cause Insomnia”, AARP website
5. Estimation of the global prevalence and burden of obstructive sleep apnoea: a literature-based analysis, Lancet Respir Med. 2019 Aug; 7(8): 687–698.
6. “Why does depression make you feel tired?”, MedicalNewsToday
7. “Medical and Brain Conditions That Cause Excessive Sleepiness”, 2020, sleepfoundation.org
8. “Sleep and Mood”, Harvard Medical School Get Sleep Website
9. “Water: How much should you drink every day?”, Mayo Clinic website
10. Long-term compliance with continuous positive airway pressure in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Can Respir J. 2008 Oct; 15(7): 365–369.
11. Excessive Sleepiness, 2023, sleepfoundation.org
12. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, 2009, Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(5):391-396.
13. Correlates of excessive daytime sleepiness in obstructive sleep apnea: Results from the nationwide SESAR cohort including 34,684 patients. J Sleep Res. 2022 Dec;31(6):e13690.
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