The Snorer & The Snoree

Did you know that one of the top complaints cited as causing serious marital strife is snoring?  It seems hard to believe that the noise we make while we’re asleep would rank right up there with money and infidelity, but it’s true, and it’s an indication of just how important getting a good night’s sleep is to our quality of life. So, if you’re in a relationship where one of you is a snorer and the other is the victim of your snoring, there are steps that you can each take to make life easier and to preserve your partnership. Understanding why the snorer snores is a start – it’s as simple as the fact that the airway is being narrowed by tissue or some other blockage. It could be something that has relaxed the muscles of the throat, like alcohol or other drugs with a sedative effect. It could be an anatomical cause, like enlarged tonsils, a fractured nose, or even obesity pressing in on the windpipe. It can be as simple as absolute exhaustion driving you into an incredibly deep, and relaxed, sleep. Whatever the cause, snoring is not a hopeless situation. If you’re the person who is snoring and it’s having an impact on your sleep partner, it’s time to take a good look at yourself.  Do you need to lose weight? Sometimes the loss of just a few pounds can make an enormous difference in the amount of air that’s able to get through your airway.  Are you drinking before bed? Taking sleeping pills or muscle relaxants? If so, it’s time for you to cut back, stop completely, and if it’s a medication that’s been prescribed, have a chat with your physician to see what other prescription can be written that won’t have an impact on your windpipe.  If you’ve been on the medication long enough for it to be causing a problem in your marriage, it might be time to come off. Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. People who are physically exhausted sleep deeply, and that makes you more likely to snore. Similarly, sleeping on your side opens up your airway more than lying on your back, which can make your tongue fall backwards into your airway. If you tend to roll onto your back when you’re asleep, try sewing a tennis ball onto your pajama top, right in the middle of your back. Propping up the head of your bed can help prevent the tongue from falling backwards too. Check the humidity in the room that you’re sleeping in. If the air is too dry your nasal passages can get dried out. Similarly, smoking can impact the lining of your nose.  Sometimes a cold or chronic allergies can cause snoring, so check with an allergist or an ENT to see whether there’s something that can be done to clear out your nasal passages. There are several devices that can be used to prevent snoring, ranging from nasal strips that hold your nasal passages open to devices that fit into your mouth to hold your tongue out of the way. Surgery is also a possibility in extreme cases: excess muscle can be trimmed away using lasers. Finally, if your snoring is interrupted by periods in which you are not breathing at all, and suddenly wake up gasping for air, you are showing signs of sleep apnea. Make an appointment with a sleep specialist, as this condition can become extremely serious. If you are the sleep partner of a person who is a chronic snorer, there are things that you can do to help yourself to get a good night’s sleep, and possibly to preserve your relationship.  Learn everything that you can about snoring; doing so can help you determine exactly what is causing your partner to make the sounds that they are making, and may actually help you to save their life, as you are the person who is able to distinguish between harmless (but annoying) snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, the type of snoring that is interrupted and may lead to serious health conditions. More than half of the cases of sleep apnea that come to a physician’s attention come from reports from alert (but annoyed) sleep partners. If your partner is snoring normally, make sure that you pay attention to their personal habits, including medications, alcohol and not getting enough sleep, that may be contributing to your problem. Asking them to stop snoring is asking the impossible, but asking them to lose weight, cut back on alcohol or cigarettes, get more sleep are all more reasonable requests that can yield the result that you’re looking for – and will probably end up making them feel better and add years to their life in the long run. One important trick that has proven extremely successful for the partners of chronic snorers is to go to bed before they do.  It’s hard to fall asleep when you’re lying next to someone who is making sounds reminiscent of a buzz saw, but if you’re already asleep when they turn in, the likelihood of you hearing those sounds decrease significantly.  Earplugs can be helpful, and many people have reported success with using white noise machines that give them something other than the snoring to concentrate on. If all else fails, remember that your need for sleep is very real – stop fighting the problem and move into another room, or make them do so, so that you can both get a good night’s sleep. Though snoring can be annoying and cause for tension, it is also a physical problem that may be an indication of a serious medical condition. One way or another, no matter how annoying the sound is, it’s important to remember that nobody snores on purpose, and the chances are that your snoring partner has been embarrassed about the sounds that they unconsciously make for a long, long time.  Snoring isn’t something to fight about – it’s a problem to solve together.