The Other Side of the Bed: Dos and Don’ts For the Non-Snoring Partner
Go on any snoring site and you’ll see all sorts of advice for snorers.
What you might not see is what the non-snoring partner can do, what’s a no-go – and whether he or she should do anything at all.
Being the non-snorer in a noisy bed can be difficult, may build resentment over time and results in a lack of sleep and difficult mornings for both parties. Some experts go so far as to warn of potential damage to a person exposed regularly to another’s snoring.
What’s a partner to do? Let’s explore the options of the non-snorer.
Should You: WAKE THE SNORING PARTNER?
A method that goes back as far as written history (and almost certainly before) is to elbow, push or otherwise physically bring the snorer to wakefulness.
Actually, for very occasional snoring and if done gently, this can work, at least temporarily. The snorer comes to near-consciousness, takes in a quick gasp, and with oxygen now in his or her system, falls back asleep more comfortably.
Unfortunately, there are drawbacks to this method. For one, if the partner is a chronic snorer, the partner may be waking the snorer eight, ten or even more times a night, interrupting the sleep of both. For another, being jarred awake could place stress on the snorer’s body and mental health. At best, it’s a temporary fix; at worst, you may actually harm the snorer.
By the way, we’ve seen references to pinching the partner’s nose closed to stop snoring. NEVER do this. Your partner’s breathing is already compromised; the nose-pinching method can only make things worse and will force the snorer to wake up gasping desperately for breath. This may disturb sleep further on subsequent nights due to the subconscious fear of suffocation. Disturbed, fearful sleep means erratic breathing and may mean more snoring. There’s no upside. Just don’t do it.
Our Vote: No
Should You: SLEEP IN ANOTHER BED/BEDROOM?
Interestingly, the prim trend of days gone by of separate beds or even maintaining separate bedrooms seems to be making a comeback. And a surprising number of couples already sleep separately (about one couple in four), though they’re often embarrassed to admit it.
If both rooms (or beds) are equally spacious and comfortable and if both individuals are happy with the arrangement, this can work well, experts say. Beware, though: some non-snoring partners will feel resentful that they have been forced apart at nighttime, and both individuals may suffer loneliness and a disconnect in the marriage. Make sure you’re on the same page and maintain closeness throughout the day if you choose this option.
Our Vote: Possibly
Should You: ISSUE AN ULTIMATUM?
You’re only human, and in your sleep-deprived state you’ve probably already said more than once, “If you don’t stop you need to go on the couch!”, “Do something about this or we’re sleeping in separate rooms” or for the truly desperate, “I can’t take one more sleep-deprived day…go to the doctor about this or I’m leaving you!”
But are ultimatums the answer?
Believe us when we say we commiserate. You really CAN be that desperate for a good night’s sleep – and over months or years, resentment can get that big. Sleep deprivation is real; so is feeling, rightfully or not, that your partner just doesn’t care about your happiness or that he refuses to seek help.
But because snoring can rarely be controlled by the snorer without external help such as medication, chin straps, mouth guards or for some, surgery, an ultimatum won’t do anything except frighten the snorer and make her resent you in return.
Our Vote: No
Should You: STAY IN THE BED AND WEAR EARPLUGS?
Believe it or not, some partners of snorers do resort to earplugs, ear buds or other ways of muffling sound externally.
We NEVER recommend that a snorer put off getting professional help for a chronic issue, but as a temporary fix, you may wish to muffle your partner’s sleep sounds with earplugs while you’re both seeking help for his/her condition.
Be careful: DO NOT use this method if anyone in the house, including the snorer, has a medical issue which sound would prompt you to help with (for example, choking issues or medical alarms), or if you have a small child in the house who may wake and need help during the night. You may muffle too much sound to be of help if you wear earplugs in this case. Also be sure to use safe, retrievable plugs that won’t scratch or otherwise damage the ear canal and won’t get lost inside.
Our Vote: Possibly, With Correct and Careful Use
Should You: GO WITH YOUR PARTNER TO THE DOCTOR?
We always recommend that a snorer see his/her doctor for a chronic or severe snoring issue. A supportive partner can be a great help at the doctor’s office. Using sensitivity, she can help the doctor get a better picture of how loud and frequent the snoring is, for example (the snorer won’t be able to accurately relay this information and may underestimate or may be embarrassed to fully reveal the issue).
Another way going to the doctor with your partner may help is that you’ll be showing your support. This can be a tremendous comfort to your partner and may help him/her to open up more, too, which could aid the doctor in getting a better picture of what’s going on. You both benefit.
DON’T demand or insist, but do make the offer to go with your partner to the doctor’s office. Once inside the office, make sure not to dominate the conversation. Allow your partner to speak for him/herself and wait until s/he is done speaking to sensitively add your input.
Our Vote: Yes, With the Partner’s Permission
Should You: MAKE CHANGES ALONGSIDE YOUR PARTNER?
If the doctor has advised the snorer to make certain changes such as losing weight, getting more exercise or cutting down on alcohol consumption at night, you don’t have to make the changes with him, but doing so could play a part in his staying on-track with the new lifestyle. You’re showing solidarity and preventing him from feeling he’s been singled out as “punished” for something he didn’t want to cause in the first place.
This is entirely up to you and is also dependent upon what the actual changes are, but even making that effort could boost your partner’s morale and help her be more likely to comply with the treatment, which means you’ll both benefit.
Our Vote: Yes, Whenever Possible and Comfortable
Should You: MONITOR YOUR MARRIAGE/RELATIONSHIP?
As mentioned earlier in this article, snoring can negatively impact a partnership. Resentment can build, as can helplessness (you can’t MAKE your partner see the doctor, for example).
If snoring or another physical issue is present in your marriage, make sure to treat the partnership, not just the medical issue. If things have gotten severe, some form of counseling may even be in order. Don’t hesitate to take this step if you feel you need it. That way you can both have your happily ever after – in bed and out of it.
Our Vote: Yes