Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Tuesday, Apr 01, 2008

Metro Plus Chennai

He snores, she suffers!

Who suffers more, the snorer or his spouse? 
SHEILA KUMAR delves into this debate

Did you, perceptive reader, notice how the male of the species has
been singled out in the blurb accompanying this article? Before a
PIL is filed against this writer by irate (snoring and non-snoring)
men, I have to stress that studies worldwide back my statement
 up. In 2005, the U.S.-based National Sleep Foundation (bet you
 didn’t know that such an organisation existed) found that as many
 as 24 per cent of women reported sleeplessness besides a snoring
 spouse as compared to 19 per cent men.

There’s more. The same study also revealed that 39 per cent of
 men snore while the number stops at 25 per cent with women.
Ask the long-suffering Indian wife and she’ll aver 30 of that 39
 per cent reside in our country. Since our culture does not offer
 any ready solutions to this not-insignificant fly in the marital
 soup, most Indian wives, this writer included, just puts up
with the problem.

Various mechanisms
Says Bindu Ramesh, “I cope by using the elbow mechanism.
When Ramesh’s snores hit the high octaves, I just roll over
and dig him with my elbow. That buys peace for a little while.
” Shinie Antony has perfected the roll-over technique…ie., she
 rolls her husband onto his side, since she read somewhere that
sleeping on one’s side reduces snoring. Shyla tried to coax her
husband to use snore-reducer drops; it didn’t work only because
her husband refused to use the drops. Shailaja actually had her
 kids videotape her husband asleep so she could prove to him
that he snored louder than a lorry! And so, the women suffer,
 in silence or very vocally. But they suffer nevertheless.

Let’s hark back to that U.S. study. All of 34 per cent of women
 said their husbands’/boyfriends’ snoring was ‘hurting’ their
 relationship. And surprise, 31 per cent of the men too assented
to this statement. Now, this is a mature acknowledgement and
response to what is actually a big problem for many women.
Whether she is a committed sleeper (eight hours or more)
or a fitful one (making do with five or six hours nightly), given
that most if not all women are big multi-taskers, it is vital that
they get a good night’s sleep. Abroad, couples are actually opting,
 reluctantly if practically, for separate beds, and in some drastic
cases, even separate bedrooms. Anything to save the relationship.

Not surprisingly, most married men oppose the idea of separate
 beds and rooms. Actually, experts say that most people sleep
 better alone, with no physical contact. Again, maybe it is a ‘man’
thing but men can almost always sleep right through their wives’
snoring. Or else, with both partners snoring, bedtime becomes
one noisy but harmonious sonata. Sleep incompatibility seems to
be restricted to the fairer...definitely the more sensitively-sleeping…
half of a couple. And when sleep is seriously compromised, that
tension spills over into other areas. A sleep-deprived person is not
a happy person, and that deprivation will show in all areas and
activities the person indulges in, whether in child care, at the
workplace or at social gatherings. In the long-term, too, sleep
deprivation leads to many illnesses.

Sleep sociologists (bet you didn’t know of this breed, either!) point
out that gender equality moves into the bedroom, with women
putting up with disturbed sleep as well as the perception that losing
 sleep is no big deal…a double whammy, indeed. Naturally, this
 leads to resentment, long stifled, that may well erupt in a
catastrophic manner, sooner or later.

This for the lucky few who have no connection with snoring or
snorers: snoring or sleep apnea is the sound produced when
there is an obstruction to breathing while sleeping; the most
advanced stage is called obstructive sleep apnea. This happens
when the soft palate and the uvula vibrates when air is inhaled,
 manifesting in loud snorting, choking during sleep, abnormal
 limb movements, and scary moments when one struggles for
 the next breath.

So, are there any solutions to the snoring problem? Well, a thoughtful
 man would steer clear of alcohol before bedtime, drink warm milk
 with a pinch of turmeric and pepper instead, elevate his head with
 a pillow, sleep on his side, or in the last resort, resort to the living
 room sofa or couch. Or try hypnosis. Given that such thoughtful
 spouses seem in drastically short supply, women, in the meantime,
 teach themselves how to elbow or roll a snorer over. Some women
 can do this in their sleep. Their broken sleep, that is.

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