My partner snores and won’t do anything about it. Help! | Leading questions

I am driven insane by my partner’s inaction – he won’t do a thing to counteract the devastating volume and intensity of his snoring. He won’t adopt a healthier lifestyle (which has made a huge difference in the past). This infuriates me. The onus now seems to be on me for “sleeping too light”.

It’s gone beyond the snoring itself. Now it’s the lack of care for himself … and me! I truly hate the sound and sometimes I just want to leave this whole relationship.

Eleanor says: I used to have a housemate who’d come home singing at one or two in the morning. It wasn’t malicious, just inebriated, but if you ever came out of your room to express exasperation he’d just try to dance with you. So it became impossible to tell him off without feeling like a cartoon of an evil headmistress, smacking your palm with a rolling pin, here to quash the fun.

It took seeing other people’s reactions to fully understand how big a problem this was. Turns out whatever else divides us, everyone hates it when someone interrupts their sleep. Everybody knows the wrung-out, spun-out feeling of a bad sleep, and nobody is sanguine about the prospect of encountering it over and over again.

I say this so you know how legitimate it is to want this to change. You know that, I know, but it can be hard to hold on to that feeling in an argument – especially when you’re sleep deprived and especially when your partner says things like “you’re sleeping too lightly”. Cognitive performance, emotional regulation, immune function – it all depends on sleep.

And this is (or should be) your partner’s problem, too: not just because it forces his partner to live through the thick green glass of constant fatigue, but because snoring can be a sign of serious health problems.

It sounds to me like one problem is the snoring itself and the other is your partner’s attitude to the snoring. The first is a practical problem, and I’m sure you’ve tried the classics. Roll him over? Noise canceling headphones? Whistling a low note next to his ear? That was my grandmother’s favourite.

But like most other problems in relationships and marital beds, unless he agrees that this matters, it’s going to be difficult to secure lasting change on your own. There might be ways to try to crowbar that agreement out of him: you could get a little decibel reader to prove how loud it is. You could record the sound and play it back to him while he’s sleeping to test the theory that it’s unreasonable to be woken or bothered by the noise.

But ultimately, this may be a moment to ask yourself: how hard do you want to have to work to convince someone that what you’re saying matters? How much do you want to be in the persuasion game instead of the already-believed game? There are snorers (millions of them!) who are also loving partners, equally concerned about the problem, who shuffle off to the couch or try the devices or make the appointments or even just say the funny kind of “sorry” we say about something we didn’t do on purpose.

I think often of the closing line of CJ Hauser’s memoir: “It was not that remarkable for a person to understand what another person needed.” If your partner does not understand what you need, but you do – that may be enough.


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