It’s 3 a.m. and you have to get up in four short hours. But instead of sleeping soundly, you’re kept awake by the sound of snoring coming from the other side of the bed.
It’s a common occurrence; 51% of men and 40% of women snore. But just because it’s common, doesn’t mean you should live with it, especially if it’s impacting your sleep and next-day energy levels. And to make matters worse, snoring disturbs the sleep of the snorer, too, so fixing the cause of their snoring can improve their sleep and next-day energy levels as well.
But besides filing for divorce and moving out, how can you sleep when someone is snoring?
Below, we’ll dive into 15 methods to help you get the sleep you need. Some of these involve ways you can drift off, even with the sound of snoring, and others involve ways you can get to the root of the problem and stop your partner snoring once and for all. The RISE app can help with many of them.
When we sleep, the muscles in our throat relax and tissues can sag into the windpipe, partially blocking it. When we breathe in and out, air moves over these tissues, making them vibrate and make noise — and this is what we hear as snoring.
You’re more likely to snore if you’re overweight, a smoker, drink alcohol, take sleep aids, or sleep on your back, as these things make your throat muscles relax.
Snoring may also be caused by a blockage in the nose, like a deviated septum, allergies, enlarged tonsils, or the tongue blocking airflow in the airway.
Snoring itself isn’t always dangerous. However, snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night. And sleep apnea can be dangerous if left untreated as it’s linked to obesity, stroke, and all-cause mortality.
We’ve covered how to know if you have sleep apnea here.
Even if snoring isn’t a sign of sleep apnea, the snorer is likely waking up briefly throughout the night, either from the sound of their own snoring or from their disordered breathing. So, their own sleep is disturbed and their next-day energy levels take a hit.
Snoring doesn’t just affect the snorer, though. Those exposed to noise at night often experience daytime sleepiness, mood changes, and decreased mental performance.
Plus, loud snoring can easily cause sleep deprivation, both for the bed partner listening to it and the snorer getting woken up by the aggravated partner elbowing them in the ribs. And sleep deprivation can lead to everything from poor mood, decreased productivity, and health problems like obesity, heart disease, and even premature death.
So, snoring, even if it’s not sleep apnea, is worth looking into as it can disrupt the all-important sleep of both the snorer and anyone who hears it.
Is someone's snoring keeping you up? Here’s how to drift off without disturbing them too much.
Earplugs are a great way to block out the noise of snoring, and they may even improve the sleep of the snorer, too.
One study found earplugs helped people with snoring partners feel less sleepy during the day. The snorer’s health improved, too, potentially because their partner wasn’t waking them up during the night to stop their snoring.
Always forget to put in earplugs until you’re woken up by snoring in the middle of the night? The RISE app can remind you to put them in just before you go to bed.
While noise-canceling headphones may help, they can be hard to sleep in. Experiment with different types of earplugs that block out snoring noise to find ones you can fall asleep easily while wearing. Our team likes these affordable ones from Mack’s.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their wear earplugs reminder.
A white noise machine can block out the sound of your partner snoring. While there’s not much research into white noise and snoring, research does show white noise machines can improve the sleep of those sleeping in busy environments.
One study looked at sleepers in New York City and found that, when using a white noise machine, they fell asleep faster and were awake for less time during the night compared to when they didn’t use the machine.
However, the study was small — only 10 participants — and long-term exposure to noise while sleeping has been linked to reduced deep sleep and REM sleep, so more research needs to be done.
If snoring doesn’t wake you up in the middle of the night and it just disturbs you as you’re trying to drift off, you could set a white noise machine on a timer, so it only plays for an hour or so, instead of all night.
If you have a spare bed available, consider sleeping in different rooms. While it can be sad to sleep apart, consider how disruptive poor sleep is to your life and the resentment it can cause in your relationship.
However, sleeping separately may not be the easy fix it sounds like. Research suggests sleeping alone may not improve your sleep that much. It might also be that it takes several nights to start sleeping better.
One study looked at women who had a snoring partner and measured their sleep for a night when they shared a bed and a night when they slept alone. The results showed factors like sleep duration, sleep efficiency (how long they spend in bed sleeping), and how much deep sleep they got didn’t change.
Only time spent in light sleep and awakening index (the number of times they woke up per hour) improved, but these improvements were small. However, the research was only for one night and only included 16 couples, so larger and longer studies need to be done.
The study stated: “In conclusion, we found little objective evidence that sleeping apart for one night significantly improved objective sleep quality in the female partners of male snorers. …[However,] Sleeping alone for one night may not be sufficient to allow recovery of SWS in individuals chronically exposed to snoring at night. A longer period of sleeping in quiet surroundings may be needed to restore the normal sleep structure.”
Sleeping separately may work for you. Although some studies show you get better sleep with a partner (when snoring isn’t an issue), others show you may be better off heading to separate beds when it is.
Not all snoring wakes you up. You may find your partner’s snoring only keeps you awake, but once you’re asleep, it doesn’t disturb you.
If this is the case, consider heading to bed first, aiming to be asleep by the time your partner comes to bed. Just make sure your partner is quiet and doesn’t turn on the lights when they eventually come to bed.
Whether you’re able to go to sleep at different times will depend on both partners’ lifestyles — if one of you has to be up earlier for work, for example — and chronotypes, or whether you’re an early bird or night owl.
Heads-up: Don’t let the snorer sacrifice sleep by going to bed later.
Keeping sleep debt low should be a priority for both partners. Sleep debt is the running total of the amount of sleep you owe your body compared to your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need (not everyone needs 8 hours).
Make sure the snorer isn’t going to bed later and cutting into their sleep time, building up sleep debt.
RISE works out your individual sleep need and how much sleep debt you’re carrying.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.
Snoring is common when someone sleeps on their back, and it can sometimes even be fixed simply by changing to sleeping on their side.
In fact, about 56% of people with sleep apnea have position-dependent sleep apnea, which means there’s a difference of 50% or more in apnea index (used to measure how severe sleep apnea is) between sleeping on their back and sleeping in another position.
Research shows even in those without sleep apnea, sleeping on their side reduced both the amount of time spent snoring and the intensity of snoring.
If you wake up in the middle of the night to find someone snoring on their back, try gently nudging or rolling them onto their side. Depending on how heavy a sleeper they are, you may be able to do this without waking your sleeping partner.
This tip is a tricky one. As much as your partner is disturbing your sleep, you don’t want to disturb theirs by waking them up each time you catch them snoring — no matter how tempting that is. But waking them up is an option.
Find out how to wake someone up here. Hint: gentle touch is the least disturbing during the night.
You can also use RISE’s Partner Connect feature to track both your and your partner’s sleep debt. You’ll then know who is in need of a good night’s sleep more urgently — although, of course, it’s important for both of you.
It’ll also help you understand whose sleep is being more compromised by the snoring as the app’s sleep tracking shows you how often you were both awake during the night.
If your partner’s sleep debt is high, it may be more important to not disturb them, let them get some much-needed sleep, and turn to other methods to help you sleep that don’t involve waking them up.
Sleep hygiene is the set of daily habits you can do to help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night.
Late-night light exposure or alcohol may wake you up during the night, and that’s when you hear the snoring, which stops you from getting back to sleep (or maybe it’s the poor sleep hygiene causing this, too).
On the other hand, if you have poor sleep hygiene, your partner may fall asleep faster than you, meaning you’re left awake listening to their snoring.
You can also encourage your partner to improve their sleep hygiene, too, to make sure their sleep — even if it’s disturbed by snoring — is the best it can be.
Sleep hygiene includes:
You can learn more about sleep hygiene here. The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits and the best time to do each one to make them more effective.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.
The best way to sleep when someone is snoring is to take steps to solve the snoring itself. Here’s what you can try.
There are endless anti-snoring devices on the market. Nasal strips work by sticking to the outside of the nose and stretching the skin, keeping the nasal airways open. You can also buy devices that go inside the nose, keeping airways open this way.
You can also get oral devices, which are similar to a mouthguard or retainer, that work by aligning the tongue and jaw to open up the airways.
If allergies or congestion is causing the snoring, try a nasal spray or a neti pot to help unblock airways.
Anti-snoring pillows align the head in a way that helps stop throat muscles from sagging into the airways and obstructing breathing.
Research shows these special pillows can help reduce snoring — both the severity and frequency of it.
Sleeping on your side can help to reduce snoring as it can keep the airways more open than sleeping on the back does. Try encouraging your partner to try sleeping on their side if they don’t already.
If this doesn’t come naturally to them, or they don’t find it comfortable, they can try a pregnancy pillow (even if not pregnant) or placing a pillow between their knees.
You can also buy a mattress designed for side sleepers, which can make the position more comfortable by allowing the shoulder and hip to sink into the mattress.
It can be hard for someone to switch to side sleeping if their default sleep position is on their back. Others may find they can fall asleep on their side, only to roll onto their back while asleep.
This is where positional therapy can help. Positional therapy is a group of methods to prevent people from sleeping in the worst position, in this case, on their back.
Some people swear by sewing a tennis ball into the back of the snorer’s pajamas to make back sleeping extremely uncomfortable, but there are plenty of devices out there to help.
And these devices are effective. Research found a vest with inflatable chambers on the back helped snorers sleep on their side and reduced the amount they snored — most participants reduced their snoring by more than 50%. Sleeping with the vest and reducing snoring came without negatively affecting their sleep or sleep efficiency.
While side sleeping is best, consider sleeping on your front if you can’t train yourself to side sleep. Gravity will pull your tongue and soft tissue away from your airways, opening them up more than back sleeping will.
Neck pain is a common complaint among stomach sleepers, though, so use a thin pillow to keep your spine aligned and reduce strain on your neck.
While back sleeping is the worst sleeping position for snoring, you can make it better by elevating your head and neck to stop gravity from collapsing your airways. You can lift your head up with a wedge-shaped foam pillow or an adjustable base bed.
Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, which is a serious sleep disorder. Ask your partner to get checked out for it. This usually involves doing a sleep study either in a sleep clinic or at home.
Treatment options are available for sleep apnea, such as sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, using oral appliances, and losing weight.
These treatments can not only help the person suffering from sleep apnea, but their partner, too. Research shows when snorers with sleep apnea wear a CPAP machine, their partner could get 62 minutes of extra sleep a night.
You can learn more about how to get rid of sleep apnea here.
If your partner likes to enjoy a nightcap before bed, consider swapping it for a non-alcoholic one or having it earlier in the day. Alcohol can cause the throat muscles to relax, increasing the likelihood of snoring.
Plus, alcohol can fragment your sleep — or cause you to wake up during the night — and suppress REM sleep, so it’s best to avoid it as part of great sleep hygiene, anyway.
You can check the RISE app for the best time to have your last alcoholic drink each day based on your body clock. But as a rough guide, stop drinking three to four hours before bed.
RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late alcohol reminder.
There are a few things that make people more likely to snore, including being overweight, smoking, and using sleep aids or sedatives.
You could talk to your partner about losing weight, if they need to, giving up smoking and sleep aids to see if that improves their snoring, and your sleep.
Snoring can cause sleep deprivation, but it turns out sleep deprivation can also make snoring worse. One small study found that when participants had four hours of sleep for six nights there was a significant increase in the percentage of time spent snoring. When not sleep deprived, the participants only snored intermittently.
What’s more, those with sleep apnea in the experiment snored more and had more sleep apnea episodes when sleep deprived.
So, if your partner is sleep deprived, encourage them to focus on getting enough sleep. They can use the RISE app to work out their individual sleep need and track their sleep debt.
If their sleep debt is high, they can lower it through well-timed naps or by going to bed a little earlier or sleeping in a little later. You can also keep track of their sleep debt with RISE’s Partner Connect feature, so you know when the odds of them snoring are higher.
You can find out more about how to stop snoring here.
Most of the methods we’ve listed above for how to sleep when someone’s snoring don’t involve waking them.
However, while you won’t be disturbing their sleep by physically waking them, the snorer most likely is experiencing disturbed sleep anyway through their disordered breathing. Snoring can cause micro-awakenings throughout the night, even if it’s not full-blown sleep apnea.
And snoring can decrease sleep quality (although experts don’t agree on a definition for sleep quality yet) and cause daytime sleepiness, even if the snorer doesn’t have sleep apnea.
So, you should still help the snorer get to the root of their snoring, even if you find a way to drift off with the noise. Try the methods listed above like:
Drifting off when someone is snoring isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be something you put up with night after night. Not only is your sleep hugely important for your health, the snorer’s sleep is probably being compromised, too. And that’s not to mention the resentment that can build up when your nights are disturbed.
To sleep when someone’s snoring, try wearing ear plugs, using a white noise machine, or heading to bed before the snorer. You can also use the RISE app to improve your sleep hygiene, so you fall asleep faster, wake up less often, and nothing else gets in the way of a good night’s sleep.
As well as finding ways to fall asleep with the noise, aim to get to the bottom of the snoring to improve everyone’s sleep long-term.
If your partner snores, try wearing earplugs, using a white noise machine, rolling them onto their side, or going to bed before them. You can also encourage the snorer to get tested for sleep apnea, try positional therapy, lose weight, quit smoking, and stop drinking alcohol close to bedtime.
Yes, your partner’s snoring will most likely be affecting your sleep. It may be waking you up during the night, making it hard to get the right amount of sleep for you, and it can even cause reactions in your body — like increased heart rate and blood pressure — even if the snoring doesn’t wake you up fully.
To stop someone from snoring without waking them, try gently rolling them onto their side. You can also wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to block out the sound, or move to a separate room.
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