Do you lose sleep because of your partner’s snoring? Is it light snoring you just can’t ignore, or the window rattling variety that nobody would sleep through? Most people snore occasionally, but it’s estimated up to 40% of men and 24% of women do on a regular basis. There’s plenty of help available for people who snore. But what about you – the one who has to put up with their nocturnal rumbling? Let’s take a look at some practical tips to help you sleep through the noise. I’ll also explain why it’s important to encourage your partner to tackle it once and for all.
1. First steps: is it snoring or sleep apnea? Your partner may not feel the snoring disrupts their sleep, and it might be true. But according to the American Sleep Apnea Association, up to 50% of snorers might have obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder with serious health implications. So it’s important to encourage your partner to speak to a doctor if they have any of the following symptoms:
They usually snore loudly
Sometimes stop breathing in their sleep
Choke or gasp when asleep
Very restless at night
Often feel tired during the daytime
Sleep apnea can be treated, and in doing so will help the snoring – and your sleep along with it. If your partner is being stubborn about their snoring, record them so they can hear it themselves.
2. Change their sleeping position Many people snore more when they lie on their back, and less so on their side or stomach. Ask your partner to remember this, at least at the start of the night. If they roll onto their back later in the night, see if you can gently roll them back onto their side. An unusual trick is to sew a tennis ball into the back of their pajamas or T-shirt. This will make sleeping on their back uncomfortable, and keep them in a non-snoring position. If they can only sleep on their back, try experimenting with different pillow heights. And you can find specialist anti-snore pillows which keep the head and airways in a better position.
3. Support them to lead a healthy lifestyle There are several risk factors that are thought to increase the likelihood, or intensity, of snoring. Being overweight is a major factor; the British Snoring and Sleep Apnea Association says that obese people are 3 times more likely to snore. And research has shown other factors that can lead to snoring are:
Regular use of sleep medication or other sedatives
Nasal congestion because of a cold, sinus infection, illness or allergy
If any of these apply to your partner, talk to them about the effect it might be having on their snoring and sleep. And if they have allergies, such as dust mite, hay fever or animals, try to keep the bedroom clear of allergens.
4. Block out the noise If nothing else helps, you can try to block out as much sound as possible so you can get some sleep. Here are some ways to reduce the noise your hear in bed:
Use earplugs with a high noise reduction rating (look for an NRR score of 33 or close to it).
Wear headphones in bed and listen to music.
Try noise-canceling headphones to increase the sound blocking.
If your partner snores very loudly, it might be a case of reducing the volume to an acceptable level rather than succeeding in cutting it out completely. In my personal experience, earplugs can make a significant difference to how much sound you hear. But you might not be able to block 100% of the noise.
5. Go to bed first, or sleep in separate bedrooms If you tend to stay asleep once you finally do drift off, it might be helpful to go to bed first. That gives you the best chance to enter sleep mode. You could also try sleeping in separate bedrooms on the worst nights, or when you have something important to do the next day. According to a 2005 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 1 in 4 married American couples sleep in separate beds or bedrooms.
6. Ask them to try an anti-snoring device Last year, I gave a friend who snores extremely loudly 3 different anti-snoring devices to try out. One did nothing, a second was ok, and a third worked very well. He then spoke to his dentist about getting a custom device made, which led to him stopping snoring. There are many different devices available, with the main categories being:
Mandibular advancement devices (like a mouth guard)
Tongue stabilizing devices
Nasal plugs and strips
Many of these are available on prescription from a doctor or dentist. Some can also be bought over the counter or online at a reasonable price.
7. Dealing with someone who refuses to get help Several readers have mentioned in the comments below since I first wrote this article that communicating with their partner about their snoring has been difficult. I personally think it helps to keep in mind that they probably know – and have known for years – that it’s an issue that upsets people. Perhaps they know it’s caused by alcohol or weight, for example, and this makes them feel even worse. If you approach it from the point of view of wanting to gently help them rather than ‘attacking’ them with criticisms, you might find they are more receptive to trying to tackle it. Telling them you worry about their future health might get a more positive response than “you’re driving me crazy with your snoring, just cut out the booze at night!!!”. If you still struggle to get through, perhaps talk to a close family member or friend for advice. Sometimes an outside opinion on how to approach them can open up avenues you hadn’t considered. Try to stay calm, even though I know it’s frustrating trying to deal with someone who refuses to accept responsibility for your lost sleep!