Dear Mr. Manners: When my fiancée and I were dating, his occasional snoring didn’t bother me—or maybe I just didn’t notice as much because we weren’t together every night. Now we’re married, and I’m at my wit’s end with his honking, which gets going about 30 seconds after he falls asleep and goes on an on. Last night, when the snoring began, I elbowed him (gently), but he got angry and told me to leave him alone. I have two questions: Isn’t it okay for me to wake him up to stop the snoring? And if it comes to the point where someone needs to sleep in the guest bed, which one of us should it be?–Sleepless in San Diego
A: Before I get into the etiquette of poking and prodding your snorer of a husband, I want to make sure you know that while snoring is generally considered a minor “social” problem (though a major marital one), it can also be a serious health issue. It’s correlated with a heightened risk of both heart attack (snorers have a 34 percent greater chance of having one) and stroke (67 percent). Other problems include sleep apnea, drowsiness, irritability, lack of focus and decreased libido. In short, it’s important for your husband to determine why he’s snoring so much and the most helpful thing you can do is push him into making an appointment with a specialist for asleep study.
Now onto the snoring etiquette!
When I posted your question on my Facebook page, my readers came through with loads of practical advice that was clearly based on extensive experience:
*.“Many a marriage has been saved with separate bedrooms (and a two-sink bathroom).”
*.“The one who’s having anger issues should sleep in a different bed. Why do couples feel they must share a bed every night? My partner and I have separate bedrooms, we cuddle before we go to sleep in one bed or the other, then sleep separately most nights. It’s okay–really!”
*.“Instead of pushing, shoving & elbowing I tickle the hair lightly by the neck, knee or other area so he thinks it’s an itch. This makes him change breathing patterns. And then he stops snoring long enough for me to fall to sleep.”
Here’s my own advice for snorers:
1.Make sure your snoring has been properly diagnosed and you are following a treatment plan—which may include sleeping on more pillows, taking a decongestant, foregoing the nightcap and/or losing some weight.
2.Provide earplugs for bedmates.
3.Try “snore strips” such as Breath Right.
4.Tell your sleeping companion that it’s okay to wake you up when your snoring gets too loud.
5.If it takes more than two or three prods to stop your snoring, your sleep mate deserves the bed to him- or herself.
And here’s my advice for anyone sharing a bed with a snorer:
1.Remember that snoring is a medical condition, not a personal failing. Don’t exacerbate your sleeplessness with an outburst of anger.
2.If “occasional” snoring has become nightly, consider together whether there have been any changes in a partner’s health or behaviour that could contribute to the increase. Regardless, be gentle with your spouse and discuss this in a non-confrontational manner—and not when you both are trying to get some zzzs.
4.If the snoring continues to bother you, consider sleeping separately.
As one Facebook poster put it: “I’ve been sleeping in our guest bed on and off for 22 years. Just before he wakes up I slip back into our bed to give him a kiss to start our day.”I would only add this: Occasional prodding and poking are fine, but if you’re counting on a long and happy marriage, beware the resentment and shoving. Get to the heart of the matter as quickly as you can.