Sleeping with a snorer tests you. When the $1,500 adjustable bed frame, $300 noise-canceling headphones and vigorous kicking under the covers have all failed and you’re still losing sleep to the sounds of what can only be described as an escaped resident of Jurassic Park, the only thing left to do is Van Gogh–it and cut off your own ears. Or is it? An Oxford University professor of circadian neuroscience says there might be a safer, simpler solution to the snoring snafu. Just pick up, move to the next room and embrace sleep divorce.
Russell Foster, who is also director of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology in South Oxfordshire, England, recently gave a talk about the value of separating from your partner if their nighttime throat-yodeling is putting your relationship on thin ice. He said that often, when he gives this advice, people respond with hesitation because of what they perceive as a loss of intimacy. “So many people say, ‘I slept with my partner for 50 years, it’s the end of our relationship,’” he said. “No, it isn’t. It’s the beginning of a new relationship where both of you ideally would be happier, more responsive to each other, less impulsive, less irritable. So I don’t think you should be afraid to sleep in an alternative sleeping space if you have one.”
The scourge of noisy sleepers likely impacts a significant portion of the coupled population. Johns Hopkins estimates 45% of adults snore sometimes and 25% snore regularly, which means there are lots of light-sleeping partners thrashing about in the sheets, desperate for some relief. Left unresolved, Foster warns snoring can drive a wedge between partners, triggering aggression in the person whose rest is continually interrupted. No one is at their best when they’ve just been woken up by unwelcome gurgles and snorts — and you can potentially do more damage to your relationship in that grouchy state than some physical separation at night.
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Of course, not all snoring emulates a grizzly bear emerging from hibernation. Some snores are cute and dainty and hardly perceptible, in which case, good for you. Regardless, chronic snoring should be checked by a doctor to ensure it’s not related to a more dangerous condition, like sleep apnea, which is often treated with lifestyle changes and a CPAP machine.
In his talk, Foster also offered some sleep tips, which include getting more sunlight during the day to help regulate the circadian rhythm. He also warned his audience not to put too much faith into sleep apps, which he said can just cause anxiety about sleeping the “right” way.
“Don’t take sleep apps seriously. They are useless,” he said. “They’re okay to tell you roughly when you went to sleep, if you woke up in the night and when you finally got up. But when they start saying, ‘You had a good night’s sleep, you got lots of REM sleep’, it’s just nonsense.”
But most of all, to get a good night’s rest, feel empowered to make changes for your own wellbeing — even if that means you or your partner moves into a different room at bedtime. Taking that space and advocating for your needs might actually strengthen your bond because, of course, absence makes the heart grow fonder and the snores grow fainter. (If you live in a studio, however, might I suggest a very sharp knife for the ear amputation? JK!)