Dear Dr Ren,
I met a guy about six months ago and we were instantly attracted to each other. We have many things in common and spend a lot of time laughing.
He had a job that required him to be at work crazy early in the mornings, so we arranged our time together to accommodate his schedule. This meant we didn’t spend nights together.
“Rob” has just recently gotten a new job with regular work hours, and we happily began overnighting. This should have been a good thing, but he snores like a freight train! Not just little purring noises, which I could find adorable, but noise loud enough that I can’t get to sleep or, if I fall asleep first, wakes me.
I’ve tried earplugs, sleeping pills, nudging him. Nothing works. I mentioned it to him, and he was embarrassed but hinted that I was being overly sensitive.
I can’t imagine living with this on an ongoing basis. How can I get him to understand the seriousness of this? Is there anything that can be done to cure snoring?
Sleepless in Vancouver
Dear Sleepless in Vancouver,
Though this is not specifically a sexual issue, it certainly can affect a sexual relationship, as you are learning rapidly. Dealing with it involves communication, patience, commitment and that commodity you tell me you have buckets of: humour.
First of all, as you mention, snoring is an embarrassment for the person doing it. They are unconscious when it happens and therefore feel out of control of the situation. Besides, it’s hardly sexy. You, the sleep-deprived partner, need to manage your frustration and anger about being kept up all night. Remember, this is in no way a personal attack, despite how it feels at 4am!
The good news is that, regardless of the cause, almost all snoring can be minimized or eliminated. Snoring is caused by a narrowing of the throat’s airway, either from poor sleep posture or abnormalities of the soft tissues in the throat. Contributing factors include advancing age, gender (males snore more), hereditary influences (narrow throat, cleft palate, enlarged adenoids), obesity or poor muscle tone, nasal and sinus blockages, alcohol intake, smoking, medications that produce muscle relaxation and certain sleep postures, especially sleeping on one’s back.
Another hint: closed-mouth snoring may indicate a problem with the tongue, whereas open-mouth snoring relates to tissues in the throat.
So you see, you must first investigate the causes and symptoms of Rob’s snoring before you embark upon any resolutions. And please be aware that we are speaking only about snoring here. You must also investigate whether Rob is experiencing sleep apnea, a much more serious sleep malady.
Some remedies are fairly easy. If Rob snores only when laying on his back, pin a sock to the back of his pyjama top and slide a tennis ball into the sock. When he rolls onto his back, he’ll be uncomfortable and self-correct. Problem solved. Snoring in all positions is more complex, as is its cure.
Another easy, sometimes effective and utterly endearing solution for some snoring is singing. Yes, singing, especially before bedtime. Avoid large meals, dairy products and those seductive nightcaps before turning in, too.
If none of these methods relieves the cacophony, Rob may need to turn to a medical solution. A mouth guard, fitted by a dentist, may do the trick. Exercises prescribed by a speech pathologist may help, or he could use the mightily unsexy CPAP machine on his face while he sleeps. Barring success with any of these methods, there are surgical interventions that enlarge the airway or stiffen the soft palate.
So that, Sleepless, sums up snoring. There’s more to discuss, though. You and Rob are a new couple and, right out of the gate, have encountered a situation that puts you at odds and requires you both to use negotiation skills better left till the honeymoon phase has cooled.
The cuddling, spooning and waking up together so enjoyed by new couples has been as interrupted as your sleep patterns. Instead of opening your eyes to your newfound lover and nuzzling him to express your appreciation for last night’s intimacies, you are ready to strangle him, and he awakens sheepish and guilty about his nighttime vocal offences.
If you are to be successful as a couple, you need to resolve this immediately. Discuss the issue openly, but not first thing in the morning or when either of you is cross or defensive. Acknowledge that Rob’s snoring is unintentional. Be patient and willing to accommodate your differences. After all, Sleepless, though your new prince’s “wart” is particularly noticeable, he’ll eventually discover that you are just another flawed human being, too.
Meanwhile, keep in mind what you would be doing during this phase of your relationship if you weren’t distracted by such a constant irritant: exploring each other and having a helluva good time!
Refer often to all those common interests you share. Concentrate on all that laughter. Cuddle when you’re conscious. Spend time together and see if you really are a good match, sleeping compatibility aside.