This is what happens when you live with a snorer; somewhere along the line, you will go insane.
I have been out with and lived with a whole range of snorers. My father used to snore. He’d often nod off in his armchair while watching the TV and, some minutes later, gentle sounds would emerge from his mouth.
It always sounded quite restful. He seemed peaceful, with his head thrown back and mouth open. But that didn’t last for long. Within the next 15 minutes or so, Vesuvius would erupt.
My father would suddenly pick up the type of steam only a practised long-term snorer can muster. He would breath more deeply and then SNORE! Out they would come, these deep-throated, terrifying, growling rattles.
The sound was excruciating. In fact, when I think of my father, that rasping sound is what I remember of him possibly more than anything else.
Then, in my adult life, I spent years with John, who sleep-walked and snored. He was a liability. When we were travelling round the U.S., I woke up one night to find him gone. I panicked. I had no idea where he was, but it turned out he had sleep-walked, stark naked, out of the room and gone down to the reception – snoring all the way.
I then went on to live with a flatmate, Paul, who snored so badly no one else in the house could sleep once he’d started grunting away.
We would have to knock loudly on his bedroom door just to get him to be quiet. Most of the time, though, it didn’t work, and the next morning we’d all be bug-eyed with lack of sleep, while he’d be fine.
Then there was the time I travelled around Africa with Oliver. He snored so loudly that all the other people camping on the safari trip complained.
This is the problem of living with a snorer. They can look shame-faced and apologetic when you tell them how badly they snore, but, in reality, it’s not their life that it’s affecting – it’s the rest of us. And it’s affecting loads of us.
According to a recent National Sleep Foundation poll, two-thirds of adults in a relationship say their partner snores, while six out of ten adults admit to snoring. Up to half of the partners of persistent snorers say they often try to sleep elsewhere.
This is certainly true. With my ex, I would grumpily harrumph out of bed at Lord alone knows what time of night, and then go to sleep on a camp bed in the next room. A camp bed!
My ex would then complain I had exited the bed. While I sympathise with the poor, put-upon snorer who feels as if he or she is a social outcast, I also have to say that life with a snorer is one long round of almost-hysterical behaviour on behalf of the non-snorer.
For a start, if you sleep with a snorer (as I do), you are driven so mad by their constant noise that you behave in an odd fashion nearly all of the time. You are so sleep-deprived that you behave like a nutter.
Then your life starts taking on a ritualistic quality that seems mad (the obsession with ear plugs, for example), but is actually sane. I have chatted to many partners of snorers and all we have talked about is what type of ear plug is the best for blocking out the noise of the snorer. I can’t bear the pink plastic ones, the type swimmers use, and favour the yellow foam ones. It becomes obsessional – the search for a cure (is there one?), the gadgets, the sprays.
It becomes all-consuming just because the non-snorer is searching for something as basic as a decent night’s sleep. I have spent many a day bemoaning men’s snoring habits with friends.
We have all pored over health pages and advice forums. We have tried many things. One woman sewed random buttons into her partner’s pyjama top so that it became too uncomfortable for him to sleep on his back.
Another tried stopping her husband having his evening glass of wine. Her theory was that it was the alcohol that was making him snore. However, she found out it made no difference at all.
I find I have built mad little rituals into my life to try to combat my husband’s snoring problem. For a start, I have realised it is absolutely imperative that I am asleep before him. If I fail to get to bed before him, all is lost.
For once his head hits the pillow, the game is up. H e is one of those people who falls asleep immediately. He can appear to be wide awake, busying around getting ready for bed, cleaning his teeth, chatting away and then – wham! – as soon as he lies down, he falls asleep.
Absolutely, in that very second. This is the precise opposite of what I do. I take hours to go to sleep. I have to bore myself stupid by counting sheep backwards. So it is galling in the extreme for me to find that within a few moments, my husband is not just asleep, but that he will begin to emit loud snores. All night.
So this is what happens: there we will be, downstairs watching TV and suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I will see my husband yawn. ‘My God!’ I will say, sitting bolt upright. ‘Did you just yawn?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he’ll say, looking bewildered. ‘Did I?’ ‘Yes,’ I’ll say. ‘You did. Are you feeling tired?’ ‘Erm, I don’t know. Maybe.’
The ‘maybe’ will have me putting down whatever I am doing, switching off the TV, abandoning my crossword and running upstairs to bed. I will then get ready as quickly as I can before I leap between the sheets, close my eyes tight and hope to God I will fall asleep.
This doesn’t always work. I might not be sleepy. Or my husband might do the unforgivable thing of coming to bed as soon as I head upstairs, which causes me to bridle with rage.
How dare he! I then spend all night kicking him and prodding him to try to stop him snoring. Most of the time, he snorts apologetically and rolls over, but after several hours of this, he gets cross.
‘It’s not my fault,’ he’ll say in his sleep. ‘Leave me alone!’ And the next morning he will complain he has had a terrible night’s sleep. ‘You prodded me all night!’ he’ll complain.
But the real problem is that I can find no solution. My husband has tried spraying things up his nose and putting strips across his face, but they have made no difference. He has logged onto the extremely helpful website of the British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association and tried a variety of exercises to identify what type of snorer he is.
Four out of ten men and three out of ten women are snorers
He sticks his tongue out and tries to snore. He closes one nostril. He snores with his mouth open and then tries to replicate that with his mouth shut. Finally, he has come to believe he is someone who suffers from ‘palatial flutter’ – the vibration of the soft palate on the uvula.
The recommended cure is strips that help to keep the mouth of the snorer closed at night, plus regular night-time use of Rhynil, a spray that helps reduce stuffiness in the nasal area.
My husband looks at all this rather doubtfully. It’s not that he hasn’t tried, it’s that everything he has tried hasn’t worked. He has even considered surgery, but has been told that it doesn’t work all the time. He is loath to go in for an operation that may not do any good.
‘Will this ever change?’ I ask him as we eye the Rhynil dubiously one night. ‘Yes,’ my husband says, suddenly full of determination. ‘It will.’
We get into bed. He does a couple of sprays in his mouth. ‘Here’s hoping,’ he says. He then closes his eyes and he’s off. I lie there and stare at the ceiling. I wait and wait and… nothing! It’s a miracle.
I turn off the light, turn to one side and just as I am drifting off, I hear it. A small, gentle snuffle. I can do snuffle, I tell myself. Half an hour later, the snuffle turns into a snore. I sigh. It seems that this torture is never going to end.