(Not) Sleeping With a Snorer

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How to Silence the Noise Without Resorting to Murder

We all know how important a full night’s rest is to proper functioning during the day. But what can you do when you can’t sleep because your partner or roommate regularly saws logs?

As we get older, we may become lighter sleepers; any tiny noise our partner makes wakes us up. Likewise, as we age, many of the causes of snoring become more pronounced. So even if you were fine sleeping with your partner for years, or even decades, things may be different now.

What causes snoring to begin with? Basically, as you progress from light to deep sleep, your throat, tongue and other tissues relax and partially block your airway. This forces air through a narrower opening which may lead to vibration of the tissues and that familiar ruckus.

Yes, you heard that right, you are partially blocking your airway. Indeed, according to the Mayo Clinic, snoring is associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where the snorer may actually stop breathing.

Fortunately, this lack of oxygen will wake them up, and they’ll start breathing again. They may or may not remember waking up, but if they have any of the following symptoms, make them seek out the advice of a medical professional.

  • You witness their breathing pauses during sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Problems concentrating
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up with a sore throat
  • Restless sleep
  • Gasping or choking at night
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain at night
  • Snoring loud enough to wake up you, their partner
  • (In children, poor attention span, behavioral issues, or poor school performance)

How can a snorer reduce their snoring?

Everyone is entitled to a good night’s sleep.

Part of the solution resides with the guilty snorer. The first step is for them to acknowledge the problem. At best, they are keeping you from a good night’s rest, at worst, their own health may be in jeopardy.

There are several risk factors for snoring, some of which the snorer can control, others not so much. Factors you can’t control include family history and having a narrow airway. And being a man.

However, there are a few factors the snorer can control:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Avoid alcohol before bed

Alcohol relaxes your throat, tongue, and other muscles, increasing the risk of snoring. The same goes for sedatives, including anti-anxiety medications, such as lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium).

Note, the ban on alcohol/sedatives does NOT apply to the snoring victim…

(But all joking aside, drugging yourself to sleep is not a long-term solution to sleeping with a snorer.)

Another risk factor is nasal issues. This could be a structural issue, such as a deviated septum, or simply a stuffy nose from allergies. If the latter:

  1. Clear your bedroom of potential allergens.

And obviously, discuss potential allergy issues, including medications, with your doctor.

Products, such as “Breathe Right Nasal Strips” might help open up stuffy noses but are no guarantee.

Image ©Prakasit Khuansuwan via Canva.com

Snoring and Sleeping Position

Not always, but sometimes your sleeping position is to blame. You are far more likely to snore if you sleep on your back.

  1. If you are the snorer, you can train yourself to sleep on your side

Yes, as a former-back-sleeper (and back snorer) I can attest that this can be done! Whenever you find yourself on your back, make a conscious effort to move to your side.

Note, that back sleepers prefer thinner pillows and firmer mattresses, so you may have to make a few adjustments. Try a taller pillow or add a padded mattress cover.

  1. If you are the snoring victim, feel free to gently wake your partner and quietly suggest that they roll onto their side. They may or may not remember this.

Speaking of pillows, there are many out there that claim to help you stop snoring. These pillows are intended either to encourage side-sleeping or raise the position of your head.

  1. Per the Mayo Clinic, raising the head of your bed by 4 inches may help with snoring

You can do this by using a slightly taller pillow, however, be aware that if your neck is out of alignment you may develop neck pain. A little trial and error may be required.

Alternatively, consider a wedge pillow to raise your head. Note that most models are around 8-10 inches tall (they are intended to treat reflux or GERD) and are higher than needed to alleviate snoring.

There are a lot of other anti-snoring gizmos available from your favorite online store, although the effectiveness of any of these is questionable.

For example, you can purchase a belt or small backpack that sticks out and prevents you from sleeping on your back. However, it’s unclear if you’re on your side, how do you transfer to your other side? (Speaking as a side sleeper, I roll on my back to get to my other side…)

There are also various mouthpieces to realign your jaw for better breathing. If you’re considering this route, it’s better to go through your doctor instead.

Sleeping with a snorer

There are the obvious earplugs, but those tiny little pieces of foam may not be particularly effective.

  1. Listen to white noise or calm music

Put on your earbuds and plug in a very long playlist of music. YouTube has a selection of 2-10 hour “calm” music or white noise selections. Here are some of my favorites.

(These selections are also great during the day when you’re feeling a tad stressed…)

When shopping for earbuds, look for two key characteristics:

The latter isn’t as important if you’re a back or stomach sleeping. But if you’re a side sleeper, you don’t want buds that stick out and become uncomfortable with your ear on the pillow.

Like any earbud, be careful not to blast them as your own hearing may be negatively affected, long-term. (Although, that would solve the snoring problem…)

Don’t forget to leave your phone, or other streaming device plugged in.

If you’re traveling and find yourself bunking up with a snorer, this is the best temporary solution available. So always pack your earbuds!

  1. Fall asleep before the snorer

This common suggestion from the internet has a limited benefit. For most, the snorer is loud enough to wake you from a sound sleep, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.

Also, it’s tough to get yourself to fall asleep earlier than your usual bedtime, especially if your partner wishes to “socialize”…

  1. Sleep alone

Everyone is entitled to a good night’s rest. If all other avenues have been tried, there is no shame in simply kicking the snorer out of the bedroom or moving yourself to the guestroom.

This should not be interpreted as a “failure” of your relationship, but a solution to a problem. Besides, if you’re cranky all the time from lack of sleep, your relationship will suffer.

If they haven’t already done so, this may force the snorer to seek medical attention for their snoring which may ultimately save their life.

Good luck!

First photo credit: ©Prakasit Khuansuwan via Canva.com

BONUS Video: Five Tips to Stop Snoring

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Liz Baker, PhD

Side sleeper, cat mom. And after many decades of nightly testing, an authority on sleeping in comfort. However, I'm still in search of the good night’s sleep I used to have.

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