Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Sound and the Fury

The premise of the recently released movie, License To Wed (which I have not and will never pay money to see), is that it is important to know your partner very, very well when embarking upon a long-term relationship. For my own part, I thought I had done my research thoroughly. Imagine my surprise when, not too many months into cohabitation with my then-fiancé/now-husband, I uncovered a truth so foul: my guy snores.

It’s not just gentle snurffs and gurgles. It's full on, window-rattling, mattress-shaking, hear-it-over-the-television-in-another-room nose-roars. After some weeks of study, I discovered that, since I am a heavy sleeper, the snoring would not wake me up if I fell asleep first. Of course, that almost never happens because he falls asleep by 9:00 and I stay up ‘til after 11:00. I also have a tendency towards “intermittent delayed sleep insomnia” which means that occasionally I lie there, staring at the ceiling for hours, wishing I could fall asleep but instead getting more and more infuriated with the person sawing wood next to me.

Over the years, I’ve had to develop some survival strategies for sleeping in such a hostile environment. The simplest, of course, is the basic jab. The pillow thunder is often diminished if the snorer can be induced to sleep on his side. In order of escalation, a quick jab with index finger, elbow or knuckle (the last being particularly effective when applied in the middle of the back) can usually get him to turn over. A kick to the calf or ankle is an advanced option, being sure to make contact with the ball of the foot only as jammed toes will not help the situation at all.

The next thing I tried, since pointy physical contact was not doing the trick, was to employ props. I bought an “anti-snoring” pillow made of firm foam, curved to support the head and neck in a snore-reducing position. Some people have had good luck with that sort of pillow. Not us, not at all. I then moved on to earplugs (the foam kind you roll and squish into shape), more earplugs (a more expensive squishy foam kind) and finally a third set of earplugs that have lasted me for some time now (brand name: AOSafety - which I first successfully used at the F1 Grand Prix in Indianapolis in 2000).

When he really gets it into gear, however, even the best earplugs in the world cannot keep the mattress from vibrating with the snores, and I have to stagger down the hall to sleep in the guest room. Now, we’re a little young for separate bedrooms as a rule, but my having a quiet refuge is imperative. I read a magazine article recently that went so far as to advocate renovating a walk-in closet into a soundproofed sleeping sanctuary for the non-snoring member of a couple. (Seems like an extreme measure, especially if your home has a guest room. If I am ever lucky enough to have a walk-in closet, I’m going to keep all my shoes in there!)

A couple of years ago we hit bottom. There was a period of about two months where I had to sleep in the guest room. He was upset and refused to believe me when I complained/explained about his snoring. So I secretly borrowed a little handheld tape recorder from his boss and, after he went to bed, I waited for the noise to start. When the racket could be heard over the television show I was trying to watch, I snuck down the hall and got him on tape. I recorded nearly twenty minutes’ worth and played it for him the next morning. Finally, he heard it too – which was particularly gratifying since the worst thing about snorers is that they never know what they sound like. Added bonus: his boss still has the recording and likes to play it at meetings. I get a lot of sympathy from my husband’s coworkers.

We’re in a pretty good spot aurally/nasally these days; I have found that the decibel level is directly proportional to any weight gain (his, not mine) and he’s been running and biking a lot. Occasionally he starts to percolate a bit – I suspect I’ll never be completely free of it. But I’ve been self-medicating lately: I think I’m close to the perfect recipe of red wine and Tylenol PM that grants me blissful slumber regardless of the ruckus on the other side of the bed.

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